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Iowa Press #2726 - Sen. Don Redfern and Rep. Betty Grundberg
February 27, 2000


Yepsen: EDUCATION ISSUES REMAIN A TOP PRIORITY IN THE IOWA LEGISLATURE. WE'LL GET A PROGRESS REPORT FROM THE CHAIRS OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEES, SENATOR DON REDFERN AND REPRESENTATIVE BETTY GRUNDBERG, ON THIS EDITION OF IOWA PRESS.

FUNDING FOR IOWA PRESS WAS PROVIDED BY FRIENDS OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION. AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS. AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA... THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

THIS IS THE SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27TH EDITION OF IOWA PRESS. HERE IS DAVID YEPSEN.

Yepsen: BOTH THE LEGISLATIVE AND EXECUTIVE BRANCHES OF IOWA GOVERNMENT HAVE IDENTIFIED EDUCATION AS THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY. AS IOWA'S NUMBER ONE BUDGET ITEM, EDUCATION IS A POLICY ISSUE, A MONEY ISSUE AND, OF COURSE, A CAMPAIGN ISSUE. SEVERAL YEARS BACK THE PROBLEM OF AGING SCHOOL FACILITIES WAS IDENTIFIED AS A CRISIS ISSUE. TODAY THE INFRASTRUCTURE ISSUE IS STILL WITH US, AND THERE'S ANOTHER CRISIS ISSUE ADDED TO THE LIST OF SCHOOL CONCERNS. IT'S AN AGING TEACHER POPULATION. TEACHERS ARE RETIRING AT A FASTER RATE THAN ANTICIPATED, CERTAINLY FASTER THAN THEY CAN BE REPLACED. IT MEANS IOWA FACES A TEACHER SHORTAGE. AND THERE'S THE ISSUE OF FALLING TEST SCORES. THE EDUCATION COMMITTEES AT THE IOWA GENERAL ASSEMBLY WRESTLE WITH THOSE PROBLEMS AND OTHERS, AND TODAY WE TAKE TIME OUT TO REVIEW WHAT'S BEING DONE. JOINING US IS SENATOR DON REDFERN OF CEDAR FALLS, CHAIRMAN OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE IN THE IOWA SENATE, AND REPRESENTATIVE BETTY GRUNDBERG OF DES MOINES, CHAIRWOMAN OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE IN THE IOWA HOUSE. WELCOME TO BOTH OF YOU. IT'S GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK. ALSO AT THE IOWA PRESS TABLE ARE IOWA STATEHOUSE REPORTERS KATE THOMPSON OF THE SIOUX CITY JOURNAL AND KAY HENDERSON OF RADIO IOWA.

Henderson: THIS PAST WEEK REPUBLICANS HAVE OUTLINED A PLAN TO SEND $25 MILLION TO ABOUT A HUNDRED SCHOOLS THROUGHOUT THE STATE OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS TO FIX UP CRUMBLING BUILDINGS, THESE WOULD BE SCHOOL DISTRICTS WHICH HAVE A HARD TIME RAISING LOCAL PROPERTY TAXES TO ENGAGE IN THOSE SORTS OF PROJECTS, WHEREAS GOVERNOR VILSACK SUGGESTS SPENDING FOUR TIMES AS MUCH MONEY. SENATOR REDFERN, HOW WILL THIS BE RESOLVED?

Redfern: WELL, KAY, ONE OF THE PRIORITIES IN THIS STATE FOR MANY YEARS HAS BEEN TO PUT STATE MONEY IN THE OPERATIONS, AND WE HAVE ALWAYS LEFT, TRADITIONALLY, THE INFRASTRUCTURE RESPONSIBILITY WITH LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS. AND I THINK YOU WILL SEE, LONG-TERM, THAT TREND CONTINUE. ONE OF THE MISCONCEPTIONS IS THAT THERE ARE A LOT OF STATES, OR MOST THE OF THE STATES, PUT SIGNIFICANT MONEY IN. WHILE IT IS TRUE A MAJORITY OF THE STATES PROVIDE INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING, MANY OF THEM ARE AT $10, $12 A PUPIL. IF YOU MULTIPLY THAT OUT WITH OUR STUDENT POPULATION, THAT'S LIKE $5 OR $7 MILLION ON A TOTAL APPROPRIATION, AND THAT'S NOT VERY MEANINGFUL. BUT I THINK WE'RE LOOKING LONG-TERM TO DO SOME THINGS TO WORK IN A PARTNERSHIP WITH SCHOOLS TO HELP THEM, BUT I THINK THE FOCUS NEEDS TO CONTINUE TO BE ON LOCAL RESPONSIBILITY WHILE WE PUT THE STATE MONEY IN PROGRAMMING LIKE THE K-3 BLOCK GRANTS TO IMPROVE EARLY CHILDHOOD; LIKE THE 0-5 CHILDHOOD; AND LIKE THE ALLOWABLE GROWTH, WHICH THIS YEAR WILL GO FROM 3 PERCENT TO 4 PERCENT.

Henderson: REPRESENTATIVE GRUNDBERG, WILL THE GOVERNOR GET HIS $100 MILLION FOR SCHOOL INFRASTRUCTURE, OR WILL IT BE SOMETHING LESS?

Grundberg: I THINK THERE WILL BE A COMPROMISE AS WE LOOK AT IT. ONE OF THE ISSUES THAT'S COME UP IS WE NEED TO FIGURE OUT WHICH SCHOOLS TRULY HAVE FIRE SAFETY NEEDS. THE OTHER ISSUE THAT'S INTERTWINED WITH THIS IS THE STATE PUTS MONEY INTO LOCAL SCHOOLS; THE STATE WANTS SOME SAY AS TO WHICH SCHOOLS THEY PUT IT INTO, AND THAT'S A DIFFICULT ISSUE THAT'S NOT BEEN RESOLVED.

Henderson: SENATOR, YOU JUST ENUMERATED THE REASON THAT REPUBLICANS HAD FOR A LONG TIME SAID THE STATE HAD ABSOLUTELY NO ROLE IN BRICKS AND MORTAR OF LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS. WHY HAVE YOU MADE THIS DECISION TO SPEND $25 MILLION OVER THE NEXT -- WHY MAKE THIS PHILOSOPHICAL DECISION?

Redfern: WELL, AND I SAY IT ISN'T JUST REPUBLICANS; IT'S BEEN DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS FOR YEARS HAD MADE THAT DECISION, AND THAT WAS TRUE WHEN THE DEMOCRATS WERE HERE AS WELL. BUT LOOKING NOW, AS WE LOOK FORWARD, WE WANT A PARTNERSHIP. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT'S REALLY INTERESTING TO ME -- THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT REORGANIZATION INCENTIVES FOR RURAL SCHOOLS, THE NEED TO REORGANIZE AS OUR DECLINING STUDENT POPULATION CONTINUES OUT FOR THE NEXT TEN YEARS. ONE OF THE POSSIBILITIES AS AN INCENTIVE IS TO WORK WITH LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS, IF THEY'RE GOING TO MERGE, TO PROVIDE THEM WITH SOME ASSISTANCE WITH INFRASTRUCTURE. ELIMINATE SOME OF THE BARRIERS. SOMETIMES ONE OF THE BARRIERS FOR THAT REORGANIZATION IS ONE HAS A HIGHER TAX RATE OR ONE MAY HAVE BONDING CAPACITY. THERE ARE A LOT OF WAYS WE CAN USE THIS AS A TOOL TO HELP US IN OTHER WAYS. I CERTAINLY AGREE WITH REPRESENTATIVE GRUNDBERG, WE JUST DON'T WANT TO SEND MONEY OUT PER STUDENT; WE WANT TO MAKE THOSE FUNDS EFFECTIVE AND EFFECTIVE FOR SCHOOL POLICY.

Thompson: REPRESENTATIVE, WHAT SHOULD THE STATE DO ABOUT THE WIDENING DISPARITY BETWEEN RURAL TEACHER PAY AND URBAN TEACHER PAY?

Grundberg: ONE OF THE THINGS I THINK WE NEED TO RECOGNIZE IS THAT WE ARE EDUCATING A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THE STATE FOR TEACHERS, BUT MOST OF THE PEOPLE THAT WE'RE EDUCATING FOR TEACHERS ARE ELEMENTARY TEACHERS. AND AS WE LOOK AT THIS ISSUE, THE QUESTION BECOMES HOW DO WE DEAL WITH AREAS WHERE YOU CAN'T PAY A TEACHER ENOUGH BECAUSE THAT TEACHER CAN GO TO ANOTHER JOB AND BE PAID BETTER THAN AS A SCHOOL TEACHER. SO IT'S NOT JUST AN ISSUE OF A DISPARITY BETWEEN RURAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND URBAN DISTRICTS; IT'S A DISPARITY WITHIN THE SCHOOL SYSTEM AS TO WHAT PEOPLE TEACH. ONE OF THE ISSUES THAT I'VE LOOKED AT IS SAYING, WELL, WHY DON'T WE ALLOW SOME MORE ALTERNATIVES WITHIN THE STRUCTURE, ALLOW MAYBE AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT. MY CONCERN IS, AS WE LOOK AT THAT IS, MORE ELEMENTARY TEACHERS ARE WOMEN. ARE WE GOING TO THEN MOVE BACK INTO A SITUATION WHERE IT WAS IN THE PAST WHERE ELEMENTARY TEACHERS ARE PAID LESS THAN SECONDARY TEACHERS? I DON'T THINK THAT'S HEALTHY BECAUSE I THINK WE, AS A STATE, HAVE MADE A STRONG COMMITMENT THAT IT IS AS IMPORTANT OR MORE IMPORTANT FOR EARLY ELEMENTARY TO BE TAUGHT BY PROFESSIONAL TEACHERS AND BE TAUGHT WELL. SO THE DISPARITY IS NOT JUST URBAN VERSUS RURAL; IT'S WITHIN THE SYSTEM ITSELF AND THEN THE QUESTION IS HOW DO YOU ADDRESS IT.

Yepsen: WELL, ANSWER YOUR OWN QUESTION FOR US. HOW DO YOU ADDRESS IT?

Grundberg: WELL, I THINK THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT ARE BEING DONE. YOU LOOK AT THE DES MOINES CONTRACT THAT JUST CAME OUT; IT ALLOWED SOME SIGNING BONUSES FOR SOME PARTICULAR AREAS. ANOTHER WAY WE HAVE TO ADDRESS IT IS TO LOOK AT THE INSTITUTIONS THAT PREPARE OUR TEACHERS. IT IS EASIER AND CHEAPER TO PREPARE AN ELEMENTARY TEACHER. IT IS DIFFICULT AND WE HAVE FEWER PROGRAMS TO PREPARE TEACHERS IN AREAS THAT AREN'T ELEMENTARY. SO IT HAS TO BE A PARTNERSHIP, A COOPERATIVE EFFORT.

Yepsen: SENATOR, WHAT'S YOUR ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION OF TEACHER PAY AND DISPARITY IN PAY AND LOW PAY THAT TEACHERS GET?

Redfern: WELL, WE LOOK AT IT CERTAINLY IN SUPPLY AND DEMAND; IT'S A NATIONWIDE PROBLEM. INTERESTING -- I RECENTLY ATTENDED A CONFERENCE AND TALKING WITH PEOPLE FROM OTHER STATES... WE CERTAINLY HAVE CHALLENGES HERE IN THE FUTURE. WE DON'T FACE AS BIG OF A CHALLENGE AS SOME OF THE OTHER STATES BECAUSE WE STILL EXPORT TEACHERS FROM THIS STATE, FROM OUR INSTITUTIONS, BECAUSE MOST AREAS THEY'RE ABLE TO FILL THEM. BUT WE SEE COMING DOWN THE ROAD AND WE SEE IT PARTICULARLY NOW IN SOME RURAL SCHOOLS WHERE THERE ARE SHORTAGES. WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO DO SOMETHING TO PROVIDE THOSE INCENTIVES TO FILL THOSE SHORTAGE AREAS, WHICH NOW, PARTICULARLY AT THE SECONDARY LEVEL IN MATH AND SCIENCE -- AND IT'S DIFFICULT, VERY DIFFICULT POLITICALLY. GIVING YOU AN EXAMPLE, OKLAHOMA LEGISLATURE JUST RECENTLY PASSED ACROSS-THE-BOARD $3,000 INCREASE FROM THE STATE FOR ALL TEACHERS. THEY DECIDED TO MAKE IT $5,000 FOR SECONDARY MATH AND SCIENCE. THEY COULDN'T GET THAT THROUGH THE PROCESS; THAT WAS VERY, VERY CONTROVERSIAL. SO THIS HAS TO BE WORKED ON. REPRESENTATIVE GRUNDBERG MENTIONED THE CREATIVE SOLUTION THE DES MOINES DISTRICT HAS COME UP WITH, THEIR RECENT COLLECTIVE BARGAINING PROVIDING SIGNING BONUSES. THOSE ARE THINGS THAT WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO LOOK AT.

Thompson: HOW DOES A RURAL SCHOOL, THOUGH, COMPETE WITH AN URBAN SCHOOL IN GIVING THOSE KINDS OF SIGNING BONUSES? AN URBAN SCHOOL HAS MONEY THAT THEY CAN SPEND ON THAT; RURAL SCHOOLS HAVE SOME REAL SHORTAGES OF FUNDING.

Redfern: WELL, THAT'S CERTAINLY TRUE IN SOME RURAL SCHOOLS, ALTHOUGH WE HAVE THAT IN THE URBAN AREA TOO. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE HAVE TO DO -- AND PART OF THAT IS THE PROPERTY TAX BASE AND INEQUITIES. REPRESENTATIVE GRUNDBERG AND I, ON THE STUDY COMMITTEE ON THE FUNDING FORMULA, HAVE BEEN REVIEWING THAT FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS, AND WE STILL HAVE INEQUITIES THROUGHOUT THE STATE, AND THOSE INEQUITIES EXIST BETWEEN RURAL DISTRICTS AS WELL AS URBAN DISTRICTS. AND WHAT WE NEED TO DO IS CONTINUE TO RAISE THE FOUNDATION LEVEL ON OUR FUNDING FORMULA TO EQUALIZE THAT, TO GIVE THOSE DISTRICTS OPPORTUNITIES. I THINK THE OTHER THING YOU'RE GOING TO SEE IS PROBABLY SOME REORGANIZATIONS WITH THE VERY SMALL DISTRICTS. IT'S VERY HARD WITH A DISTRICT OF, SAY, 200 STUDENTS OR 250 OR 300, I THINK, TO COMPETE. I AGREE WITH YOU AND WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO TAKE A LOOK AT THOSE. LOCAL DISTRICTS ARE GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE SOME DECISIONS. AGAIN, THOSE ARE DECISIONS -- THE STATE'S NOT GOING TO TELL THEM WHAT TO DO, BUT WE HAVE TO WORK IN A PARTNERSHIP TO PROVIDE THEM WITH INCENTIVES AND ASSISTANCE TO MAKE THAT DECISION IF THEY DECIDE TO.

Grundberg: I THINK YOU'RE MAKING AN ASSUMPTION THAT RURAL SCHOOLS ARE POOR. IN MANY INSTANCES, RURAL SCHOOLS ARE ABLE TO SPEND MORE PER PUPIL THAN ARE SOME OF OUR URBAN AND SUBURBAN AREAS, BECAUSE WE'VE ALLOWED THEM ACCESS TO FUNDS VIA THE BUDGET GUARANTEE, ET CETERA. BUT WHAT THEY ARE DOING IS LOWERING CLASS SIZE BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE ANY CHILDREN, OR AT LEAST ENOUGH CHILDREN. SOME RURAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS ARE SPENDING OVER $7,000 OR ABOUT $7,000 PER PUPIL, AND THAT'S NOT THE CASE FOR SOME OF OUR URBAN AND SUBURBAN SCHOOL DISTRICTS. THEY ARE NOT ABLE TO SPEND THOSE DOLLARS BECAUSE OF THINGS THAT WE'VE BUILT INTO THE FORMULA.

Yepsen: KAY?

Henderson: YOU'VE GOT A LOOMING RETIREMENT; YOU'VE GOT A HUGE AMOUNT OF TEACHERS OUT THERE WHO ARE RETIRING, AND SOME OF THEM ARE EVEN CHOOSING EARLY RETIREMENT. WHAT IS THIS LEGISLATURE GOING TO DO WITH THIS LOOMING PROBLEM OUT THERE? WHY AREN'T YOU COMING OUT WITH A SOLUTION THIS YEAR TO ADDRESS THIS PROBLEM, SENATOR?

Redfern: WELL, THE SOLUTION, AGAIN, WE ARE A LOCAL-CONTROL STATE, AND I THINK ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE REALIZE MORE HERE IS THE WORK IS REALLY BEING DONE OUT IN THE LOCAL DISTRICTS. THEY'RE THE ONES THAT ARE DOING A LOT OF THE THINGS THAT MAKE THINGS HAPPEN. AS POLICYMAKERS, WE CAN ASSIST IN THAT PROCESS, AND WE'RE LOOKING AT IT. THIS IS A THING THAT'S NOW BEGINNING TO STRETCH OUT OVER THE NEXT FIVE TO TEN YEARS. WE ALREADY HAVE SOME SHORTAGE AREAS. AS REPRESENTATIVE GRUNDBERG MENTIONED, DES MOINES JUST ANNOUNCED THEY'VE COME UP, AS A SCHOOL DISTRICT, WITH A PROPOSAL AND SOLUTION, I THINK, THAT'S PASSED OR WILL PASS VERY SHORTLY, THAT WILL PROVIDE SOME ADDITIONAL INCENTIVE FOR SOME OF THOSE SHORTAGE AREAS. SO BEING A LOCAL-CONTROL STATE, WE'RE NOT GOING TO JUMP IN AND JUST TELL THEM EXACTLY WHAT THEY NEED TO DO. OUR SHORTAGE IS DEVELOPING IN SOME AREAS BUT, AGAIN, IN MOST AREAS OF TEACHING, WE STILL EXPORT TEACHERS. LIKE PENNSYLVANIA, TALKING WITH SOMEONE FROM PENNSYLVANIA ON THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE THERE, THEY SAID WE ARE STILL NET EXPORTING TEACHERS. CALIFORNIA, PLACES LIKE THAT -- CALIFORNIA, AFTER THEIR CLASS-SIZE INITIATIVE, HAD TO HIRE 20,000 TEACHERS IN ABOUT FOUR OR FIVE MONTHS. THEY'RE THE ONES THAT REALLY NOW ARE STRUGGLING. BUT CLEARLY WE HAVE A PROBLEM. THE INCREASED ALLOWABLE GROWTH; WE WENT FROM 3 PERCENT TO 4 PERCENT NEXT YEAR. WE'RE GOING TO 4 PERCENT ANOTHER YEAR. THERE'S GOING TO ASSISTANCE IN THAT AREA, AND WE'RE GOING TO HAVE OTHER INITIATIVES IN THE FUTURE.

Henderson: REPRESENTATIVE GRUNDBERG, YOU SAID EARLIER THAT WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT ELEMENTARY TEACHERS DON'T GET LEFT OUT OF THE MIX IF WE CHANGE PAY GRADES OF TEACHERS, BUT IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR WHEN YOU HAVE A SHORTAGE AREA, AS YOU DO WITH MATH AND SCIENCE TEACHERS, YOU PAY THOSE PEOPLE MORE BECAUSE THEY'RE MORE VALUABLE TO THE SYSTEM. WHY SHOULDN'T THERE BE A DISPARITY IN PAY GRADES?

Grundberg: I GUESS THAT'S THE ISSUE WE HAVE TO WORK ON SO THAT WE DON'T JUST AUTOMATICALLY LEAVE OUT ELEMENTARY TEACHERS. WE NEED TO SEE WHAT THE UNIVERSITIES ARE TRAINING, WHAT OUR PRIVATE COLLEGES -- WHO THEY'RE TRAINING. SO IT HAS TO BE A PARTNERSHIP AS YOU WORK THROUGH THIS PROBLEM. THE ISSUE IS THIS: WE ARE 35TH IN THE NATION IN HOW WE PAY OUR TEACHERS. BUT ONE OF THE REASONS WE'RE AS HIGH AS WE ARE IS BECAUSE WE HAVE SO MANY OLDER TEACHERS. WE HAVEN'T HIRED MANY YOUNG TEACHERS TODAY, AND THAT PROBLEM'S GOING TO GET WORSE. THE PROBLEM'S NOT GOING TO BE ADDRESSED JUST BECAUSE THE LEGISLATURE KIND OF THINKS MAYBE WE SHOULD OR THE GOVERNOR THINKS MAYBE WE SHOULD ADDRESS THIS PROBLEM. WE'LL ADDRESS THIS PROBLEM WHEN THE PUBLIC IN THIS STATE REALIZES THAT THERE'S A PROBLEM. WE HAD A BILL IN THE COMMITTEE THE OTHER DAY THAT WANTED TO SAY, WELL, LET'S GO OUT THERE AND UNIVERSALLY UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM AND RECOGNIZE IT, BECAUSE THAT'S WHEN PROBLEMS GET ADDRESSED.

Yepsen: BUT ISN'T THE BOTTOM-LINE PROBLEM HERE MONEY? REGARDLESS OF WHETHER WE GOT TOO MANY TEACHERS RETIRING, WE NEED TO ATTRACT MORE TEACHERS, WE NEED TO ATTRACT MORE MATH AND SCIENCE TEACHERS SO THEY DON'T GO INTO THE PRIVATE SECTOR, THE BOTTOM LINE IS BUCKS. ISN'T THIS STATE, SENATOR REDFERN, GOING TO HAVE TO START COMING UP WITH MORE MONEY IN THE FUTURE, WHETHER IT'S MONEY FROM THE STATE OR LOCAL PROPERTY TAX DOLLARS, TO PAY OUR EDUCATORS MORE?

Redfern: AND WE HAVE. WE PASSED 4 PERCENT.

Yepsen: I'M TALKING ABOUT PROSPECTIVELY, AHEAD.

Redfern: WELL, LOOKING AHEAD, CERTAINLY. THAT'S THE THING THAT HAS TO BE GAUGED. WHEN YOU REALLY LOOK LONG-TERM, AS REPRESENTATIVE GRUNDBERG SAID, WE RANK 35TH IN TERMS OF THE SALARY, BUT IF YOU COMPARE OUR AVERAGE TEACHER SALARY WITH THE AVERAGE PRIVATE SECTOR SALARY, WE MOVE UP AROUND 14TH. AND LONG-TERM, AS WE ALL KNOW, IS TO SUPPORT SIGNIFICANT INCREASE, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO CONTINUE TO HAVE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT HERE AND INCREASE OUR ECONOMIC BASE TO DO THAT. BUT WE HAVE MADE STEPS THIS YEAR WITH THE 4-PERCENT ALLOWABLE GROWTH AND LAST YEAR, AS REFLECTED, FOR EXAMPLE, IN THE CHANGES THAT ARE BEING MADE IN DES MOINES.

Yepsen: AND WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THOSE PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO SAY WHY SHOULD TEACHERS BE PAID MORE; THEY ONLY WORK NINE MONTHS OUT OF THE YEAR?

Redfern: WELL, THE FACT IS MOST OF THEM WORK MORE THAN THAT; THEY START BEFORE THE SESSION GOES. ANOTHER INTERESTING PART, I DON'T MEAN TO KEEP COMING BACK TO DES MOINES, IS THAT THEY ADDED SOME TEACHERS DAYS AS A PART OF THAT CONTRACT FOR TRAINING. WE HAVE A TREMENDOUS SUBSTITUTE PROBLEM; THERE'S A SHORTAGE OF SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS. ONE OF THE SOLUTIONS THAT HAVE COME UP THAT WILL HELP IN THAT PARTICULAR CONTRACT IS INSTEAD OF PULLING TEACHERS OUT OF THE CLASSROOM FOR TRAINING, THEY'LL TAKE TRAINING DAYS WHERE THEY'RE ALL TOGETHER AND THERE ISN'T AN ORDINARY CLASSROOM. SO AGAIN, THERE ARE A LOT OF CREATIVE SOLUTIONS. WE HAVE A TRADITION IN IOWA OF LETTING THE LOCAL DISTRICTS COME UP WITH THAT, AND WE'RE GETTING A LOT OF GOOD IDEAS FROM THE INITIATIVES THEY HAVE AROUND THE STATE.

Yepsen: REPRESENTATIVE GRUNDBERG, SENATOR REDFERN MENTIONED EARLIER ABOUT CLOSING SOME SMALL RURAL SCHOOLS. WHY DON'T WE GET MORE AGGRESSIVE IN THIS STATE ABOUT CLOSING SMALL RURAL SCHOOLS? THE TEST SCORES IN RURAL SCHOOLS ARE STARTING TO DECLINE, WHICH IS AN INDICATION THAT MAYBE, WHETHER IT'S POVERTY OR LACK OF STUDENTS, THINGS AREN'T GOING WELL OUT THERE. WHY DON'T WE GET TOUGHER ABOUT ASKING LOCAL SCHOOLS TO MERGE?

Grundberg: I THINK WE'VE DONE THAT. IN ONE OF THE BILLS THAT WE PASSED THIS YEAR, WE'VE ASKED FOR THE DEPARTMENT TO COME BACK TO US WITH REORGANIZATION INCENTIVES. I HAVE A LETTER THAT'S ON MY DESK FROM A RURAL SUPERINTENDENT THAT MAKES SOME SUGGESTIONS. WE HAVE A BILL IN THE SENATE THAT ALLOWS ADMINISTRATORS TO BE COMBINED. WE ARE DOING SOME OF THOSE THINGS. WE WOULD NOT, IN DES MOINES -- I REPRESENT DES MOINES AND WEST DES MOINES -- WANT THE STATE OF IOWA TO COME IN AND SAY HEY, WAIT A SECOND, YOU GO CLOSE MOULTON OR YOU CLOSE GREENWOOD, ET CETERA. BUT WANTING THEM TO HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO WORK THROUGH THE PROBLEMS; I DO BELIEVE THAT THERE IS MUCH MORE UNDERSTANDING IN RURAL IOWA NOW ABOUT THE NEED TO MAKE CHANGES. I SEE THAT COMING IN THE NEXT YEAR OR TWO.

Thompson: YOU'VE TALKED ABOUT INCENTIVES FOR CLOSING OR CONSOLIDATING RURAL SCHOOLS. WHAT KIND OF SPECIFIC INCENTIVES WOULD YOU OFFER?

Grundberg: I THINK THE ONE THAT'S BEEN MENTIONED. SOMETIMES YOU HAVE A DIFFERENCE IN TAX RATE BETWEEN TWO DISTRICTS. YOU MAY BE ABLE TO HELP GET THAT TAX RATE EVEN. WE HAVE THAT ONE ON ADMINISTRATORS. WE INDICATED THAT PERHAPS WE OUGHT TO BE ALLOWING ADMINISTRATORS TO BE SHARED MORE READILY OR THEY COULD COMBINE JOBS. THERE ARE SOME OTHER THINGS LIKE THAT, THAT I THINK WE WILL SEE NEXT JANUARY THAT WE WILL ADDRESS.

Henderson: THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION DIRECTOR RECENTLY TOLD ME THAT HE WILL NOT ALLOW SCHOOLS TO MEET THE REQUIREMENT TO TEACH CHEMISTRY TO STUDENTS BY TEACHING THAT COURSE OVER THE ICN, OR THE IOWA COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK, BECAUSE THERE'S A LAB COMPONENT AND TEACHERS NEED TO BE IN THE ROOM WORKING WITH STUDENTS. WHAT IS THE DISTANCE LEARNING ROLE OF THE IOWA COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK?

Redfern: UNFORTUNATELY, IT HASN'T BEEN VERY MUCH. WE TOOK SOME TESTIMONY THIS YEAR TO FIND OUT WHERE IT STOOD BECAUSE THAT WAS INTRODUCED WITH GREAT FANFARE ABOUT TEN YEARS AGO OR MORE, AND THIS WAS GOING TO BE ONE OF THE SOLUTIONS FOR RURAL SCHOOLS SO THEY COULD KEEP UP. WE FOUND OUT THAT LAST SEMESTER, OR LAST SPRING SEMESTER, THERE WERE 2,300 STUDENTS ACROSS THE STATE THAT WERE ACTUALLY TAKING CREDIT COURSES OVER THAT. IT REMAINS THERE AS AN OPTION. I AGREE WITH YOU; THERE ARE A NUMBER OF COURSES THAT CAN'T BE TAUGHT ON THAT. IT STILL IS AN OPTION FOR A RURAL SCHOOL FOR A NUMBER OF OTHER TYPES OF COURSES, AND THAT'S A TOOL THAT CAN BE USED OUT THERE. AGAIN, WE'RE NOT GOING TO TELL THEM FROM THE STATE. THAT'S SOMETHING THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GET TOGETHER ON AND WORK ON. JUST TO ADD TO THIS REORGANIZATION DISCUSSION, I SPENT SOME TIME TALKING WITH SUPERINTENDENTS WHO HAVE HAD SUCCESSFUL REORGANIZATIONS. I REALLY AGREE WITH REPRESENTATIVE GRUNDBERG: THE STATE CANNOT TELL THEM WHAT TO DO BECAUSE THE ISSUES THERE ARE SO EMOTIONAL WITH THE COMMUNITY. TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL REORGANIZATION, YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE COMMUNITY WANTING TO BE TOGETHER AND WORK TOGETHER, AND FORCED FROM TOP DOWN, THAT WOULD REALLY, I THINK, DESTROY THE ATMOSPHERE IN THE SCHOOL. THERE ARE THINGS THAT WE CAN DO TO ASSIST IN THAT PROCESS, AS I'VE DISCUSSED, BUT THAT'S A DECISION THAT'S GOING TO HAVE TO MADE AT THE LOCAL LEVEL.

Yepsen: WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE ICN? YOU JUST SAID 2,300 STUDENTS. IS THAT ALL? WE'VE SPENT ALMOST HALF A BILLION DOLLARS ON THE ICN, AND YOU'RE TELLING ME THAT ONLY 2,300 STUDENTS OUT THERE BENEFIT FROM IT?

Redfern: NO, I'M NOT SAYING THAT ONLY 2,300 BENEFIT FROM IT. MANY OTHERS BENEFIT FROM IT. MY POINT WAS THAT 2,300 ARE ACTUALLY PARTICIPATING IN COURSE WORK THAT'S A CREDIT COURSE.

Henderson: BUT THAT'S WHAT IT WAS SOLD AS. WHY ISN'T IT BEING USED FOR ITS PURPOSE, REPRESENTATIVE?

Grundberg: ONE OF THE THINGS THAT DID HAPPEN ALONG WITH THAT, AND I'M GOING TO CHANGE THE SUBJECT JUST SLIGHTLY, IS WE OFFERED A POST-SECONDARY OPTION. THAT IS A REALLY GOOD OPPORTUNITY FOR STUDENTS WHO ARE NEAR A POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION INSTITUTION TO TAKE CLASSES LIKE THAT CHEMISTRY YOU'VE JUST MENTIONED. AND IT MAY BE CREDIT BOTH FOR THEIR HIGH SCHOOL CREDIT AS WELL AS THEIR COMMUNITY COLLEGE CREDIT. THAT, AND I DON'T HAVE THE NUMBERS, BUT THAT'S HAPPENING A LOT. WHAT WE HAVE IS A PROBLEM. THERE ARE POCKETS THAT AREN'T CLOSE TO COMMUNITY COLLEGES, AND THAT'S WHERE IT'S DIFFICULT.

Thompson: THERE'S A WIDENING DISPARITY BETWEEN HAVE AND HAVE-NOT DISTRICTS, BOTH ON THE PROPERTY TAX SIDE. SOME OF THEM ARE PROPERTY TAX RICH, SOME OF THEM ARE PROPERTY TAX POOR. ARE YOU SETTING YOURSELVES UP FOR SOME KIND OF A LAWSUIT OVER HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS?

Grundberg: IF WE ARE SETTING OURSELVES UP FOR A LAWSUIT, THAT OCCURRED YEARS AGO. LET ME GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE. WE HAVE A MELCHER-DALLAS OUT THERE; THEY HAVE $82,000 IN PROPERTY TAXES BEHIND EACH STUDENT. WE HAVE A LAVERNE, IOWA; THEY HAVE $476,000 IN PROPERTY TAXABLE VALUATION BEHIND EACH STUDENT. BUT WE ALSO HAVE A BASIC UNDERLYING PROBLEM HERE. WE HAVE COMMERCIAL TAXED AT 100 PERCENT, OR CLOSE THEREBY, AND WE HAVE AG LAND TAXED AT 30 TO 40 PERCENT OF VALUE, OR CLOSE THEREBY. AND SO THE DISPARITY IS BASED UPON A DISPARITY IN OUR BASIC PROPERTY TAX LAW. NOBODY WANTS TO TALK ABOUT THAT. FOR INSTANCE, IF YOU HAVE A $2-MILLION ASSET IN RURAL IOWA WHERE YOU HAVE VERY GOOD AG LAND, THAT $2-MILLION ASSET, YOU'RE USING IT TO GENERATE INCOME, MAY PAY ABOUT $11,000 TO THE LOCAL SCHOOL. IF YOU'RE IN DES MOINES AND YOU HAVE A $2-MILLION ASSET THAT'S USED TO GENERATE INCOME, THAT ASSET PAYS $33,000 TO $44,000 IN TAXES JUST TO THE SCHOOL. SO IN OUR UNDERLYING BASIC PROPERTY TAX APPROACH, WE HAVE SOME DISPARITIES THERE THAT PEOPLE HAVEN'T TALKED ABOUT THAT EITHER MAKE IT BETTER OR WORSE THAN WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT.

Yepsen: WE'VE GOT THE WAYS AND MEANS CHAIRS ON NEXT WEEK.

Grundberg: GOOD, YOU ASK THEM ABOUT THAT!

Redfern: IF I COULD JUST COMMENT BRIEFLY, THOUGH, BUT THE BASIC FORMULA THAT WE HAVE IS ONE OF THE FINEST IN THE COUNTRY. AND I WOULD SUBMIT THE FINEST EVER PUT THROUGH BY A LEGISLATURE WAS PUT IN IN THE 1970S. WHEN REPRESENTATIVE GRUNDBERG AND I TOOK TESTIMONY ON THAT FORMULA, WE DIDN'T FIND ONE PERSON THAT TESTIFIED THAT SAID THAT THE EQUALIZED, OR COMPONENT, SHOULD BE ANY CHANGE. WHY THERE ARE SOME DISPARITIES NOW IS BECAUSE TODAY WE'RE ONLY AT 87.5 PERCENT FOUNDATION LEVEL. SO THAT LAST 12.5 PERCENT IS PURE PROPERTY TAX AND THAT WORTH OF DIFFERENCE. WE'VE BEEN MOVING IT UP. WE USED TO BE AT 83. WE NEED TO MOVE -- OUR COMMITTEE RECOMMENDED GOING TO 90. WHEN WE MOVE THAT TO 100 PERCENT, THEN WE'LL BE FAIRLY EQUALIZED, BUT THAT TAKES SOME STATE DOLLARS.

Henderson: LET'S TALK ABOUT A NEW DISPARITY. MANY COUNTIES HAVE A LOCAL OPTION SALES TAX, AND THE PROCEEDS FROM THAT ARE BEING USED TO FIX UP SCHOOLS, PARTICULARLY IN YOUR COUNTY, POLK COUNTY.

Grundberg: THAT'S CORRECT.

Henderson: LOTS OF OTHER PEOPLE UNHAPPY ABOUT THAT, AND THEY'D LIKE TO SHARE THE WEALTH. HAVE YOU REALLY CREATED A BUGABOO HERE IN ALLOWING COUNTIES TO HAVE THE LOCAL OPTION SALES TAX? WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO FIX IT?

Grundberg: WELL, IN CONNECTION WITH THE LOCAL OPTION SALES TAX, I LOOK AT THE PROPERTY TAX; I'D LIKE TO SHARE THE WEALTH THERE TOO. IT'S NOT JUST BETWEEN URBAN AND RURAL IN THAT ARENA. IT JUST GOES ALL ACROSS THE BOARD.

Yepsen: WILL THIS LEGISLATURE, THOUGH, PASS A BILL TO SHARE THE WEALTH OF THE LOCAL OPTION SALES TAXES?

Grundberg: WILL THIS LEGISLATURE PASS A BILL TO CHANGE THEIR LOCAL OPTION SALES TAX? NO.

Yepsen: SENATOR REDFERN, DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT?

Redfern: NO. I MIGHT COMMENT ON THIS, KAY, IS THAT THERE ARE ABOUT NINE OR TEN COUNTIES THAT NOW HAVE THE LOCAL OPTION. IT WAS INTERESTING TO ME THAT IN A MAJORITY OF THOSE COUNTIES, THEIR PERCENTAGE OF STATE POPULATION EXCEEDS THEIR PERCENTAGE OF SALES IN THE STATE. THE ONLY ONE WHERE THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE IS POLK COUNTY AND, OF COURSE, ALL 99 COUNTIES ARE CONTRIBUTING TO THAT, INCLUDING MYSELF AND OTHER LEGISLATORS THAT COME INTO THIS AREA. I WAS REALLY SURPRISED AT HOW REALLY CLOSE THOSE PERCENTAGE OF THE POPULATION AND PERCENTAGE OF THE SALES TRACKED ON ALMOST ALL THESE COUNTIES, OTHER THAN POLK, WHICH IS A BIG DIFFERENCE.

Grundberg: AND A LOT OF OUR SALES TAX COMES FROM OUTSIDE THE STATE BECAUSE OF WHAT WE GENERATE AS A CAPITAL CITY.

Yepsen: KATE?

Thompson: NOW, YOU PUSHED BACK THE SCHOOL FOUNDATION FORMULA REWRITE AGAIN THIS YEAR. WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO GET TO THAT?

Redfern: NOW, WE'VE BEEN WORKING ON OUR STUDY COMMITTEE FOR TWO YEARS. WE HAD A REPORT LAST YEAR THAT WAS SUBMITTED AND APPROVED UNANIMOUSLY BY BOTH HOUSES, AND WE DID ADOPT SOME OF THOSE RECOMMENDATIONS. WE SENT THEM TO THE GOVERNOR, AND THE GOVERNOR LINE-ITEM VETOED A COUPLE OF THOSE. ONE OF THOSE WOULD HAVE MOVED THAT FOUNDATION LEVEL FROM 87.5 PERCENT TO 88 PERCENT AND DONE SPECIAL ED FUNDING. BUT WE DID A NUMBER OF THINGS ON THAT IN LEGISLATION, AND WE STILL HAVE SOME OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS WE'LL BE MAKING. SO OUR COMMITTEE HAS BEEN WORKING ON THAT QUITE A BIT THE LAST FEW YEARS.

Henderson: LAST YEAR YOU MADE SOME CHANGES IN REGARDS TO TEACHERS, THOSE THAT ARE BEING PREPARED FOR THE TEACHING PROFESSION. YOU SAID THEY NEEDED TO MEET SOME BASIC REQUIREMENTS AND BE TESTED, IF YOU WILL. WHY NOT TEST THE TEACHERS THAT ARE IN THE CLASSROOM NOW?

Grundberg: I THINK THE WAY YOU BEST EVALUATE TEACHERS IN THE CLASSROOM IS TO HAVE A COMBINATION OF EVALUATIONS, INCLUDING STUDENT EVALUATIONS. I THINK THAT'S THE ANSWER. WHEN WE GET TO THAT, IT WILL BE A VERY INTERESTING SITUATION.

Thompson: YOU'VE HAD A MARCH 1 DEADLINE FOR FUNDING OF ALTERNATIVE HIGH SCHOOLS. YESTERDAY WE HEARD FROM REPRESENTATIVE RANTS THAT MAY COME AND GO WITHOUT A SOLUTION TO FUNDING ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS.

Grundberg: I HOPE NOT.

Thompson: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT FUNDING ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS?

Grundberg: WE PASSED THAT OUT OF OUR COMMITTEE YESTERDAY -- WEDNESDAY, AND IT DOES PROVIDE THE FUNDING NECESSARY FOR THE ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS. YOU MUST REMEMBER THAT PREVIOUS TO THIS COMING YEAR, THERE WAS ABOUT $6.8 MILLION IN THE FORMULA, OR BEING USED IN THE FORMULA, FOR FUNDING THE ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS. THE PROPOSAL THAT WE HAVE JUST ADDS ANOTHER $3 MILLION.

Thompson: YOU CHANGED THAT, THOUGH. THE GOVERNOR'S RECOMMENDATION WAS THAT SHOULD BE BASED ON -- THE WEIGHTING OF THE STUDENTS SHOULD BE BASED, I BELIEVE, ON THEIR INCOME AND THEIR AT-RISK STATUS. THE BILL THAT, I BELIEVE, YOU PASSED OUT DOES NOT DO THAT.

Grundberg: NO, THE BILL THAT WE PASSED OUT HAS HALF OF THE WEIGHTING BASED ON PREREDUCED PRICE LUNCHES, WHICH IS THE BEST CRITERIA WE HAVE FOR POVERTY, AND THE OTHER HALF IS ON A PER-PUPIL BASIS. I THINK THAT'S FAIR.

Henderson: SENATOR, WE'VE ALL BEEN WAITING AROUND FOR REPUBLICANS WHO CONTROL THE DEBATE AGENDA UP AT THE LEGISLATURE TO RELEASE THEIR IDEAS FOR THE STATE BUDGET IN GENERAL. THE LITTLE WHISPERED-ABOUT STUFF IN THE BACK ROOM IS THAT ONE REASON IT'S NOT BEING RELEASED IS BECAUSE THERE'S GOING TO BE VERY DEEP CUTS IN POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION AND YOU TO WANT HOLD OFF UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE TO RELEASE THAT. ARE THERE GOING TO BE CUTS IN THE REGENTS INSTITUTIONS AND THE COMMUNITY COLLEGES?

Redfern: NO, THERE ARE NOT GOING TO BE CUTS; THERE ARE GOING TO BE INCREASES IN ALL OF THOSE. NOW, THERE MAY BE DIFFERENCES WITH THE GOVERNOR ON WHAT THOSE LEVELS ARE GOING TO BE, BUT THERE'S CLEARLY GOING TO BE INCREASES IN THE FUNDING FOR ALL OF THOSE. I WAS VERY DISAPPOINTED -- AND I AM FROM CEDAR FALLS. I WAS DISAPPOINTED IN THE GOVERNOR'S PROPOSALS FOR THE REGENTS AND, IN PARTICULARLY, FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN IOWA, WHICH WAS THE SMALLEST PROPOSED INCREASE FROM THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE IN MANY YEARS, OBVIOUSLY. SO THAT DEBATE IS GOING TO GO FORWARD. NO, THERE ARE NOT GOING TO BE CUTS IN THE FUNDING, BUT CLEARLY, THERE'S GOING TO BE DIFFERENCES OF OPINIONS ON WHAT THAT INCREASE IN FUNDING SHOULD BE.

Henderson: ARE YOU GOING TO GIVE COMMUNITY COLLEGES MORE THAN YOU GIVE REGENTS INSTITUTIONS?

Grundberg: I'D LIKE TO TALK ABOUT WHAT WE ARE DOING. WE'VE ALL TALKED ABOUT HOW THINGS AREN'T GOING WELL. I THINK WE REALLY TALK ABOUT, SOMETIMES, HOW WONDERFUL THE THINGS THAT WE'VE DONE. THE K-3 BLOCK GRANT; WE ARE GETTING SUCH WONDERFUL THINGS BACK FROM COMMUNITIES ABOUT WHAT WE'VE DONE THERE.

Yepsen: WE'VE GOT ABOUT 30 SECONDS LEFT. SENATOR REDFERN, I WANT TO ASK YOU THIS. WHAT IS THE STATE OF OUR SCHOOLS?

Redfern: THE STATE OF OUR SCHOOLS IS THAT THEY'RE VERY GOOD, BUT THEY COULD BE BETTER. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT'S GREAT ABOUT GOING INTO CONFERENCE -- AND REPRESENTATIVE GRUNDBERG AND I DO THAT, AND I WENT TO ONE HERE RECENTLY -- AND TALKING TO OTHER STATES IS YOU BEGIN TO APPRECIATE WHAT WE HAVE AND WHAT WE'RE DOING HERE. BUT YOU ALSO LEARN THERE ARE OTHER THINGS GOING ON YOU'D LIKE TO DO; THERE ARE PROBLEMS IN THE FUTURE. SO WE HAVE WORK TO DO. WE'VE TALKED ABOUT A LOT OF THEM TODAY, BUT ON BALANCE, I AGREE WITH REPRESENTATIVE GRUNDBERG, THERE'S A LOT TO BE PLEASED ABOUT.

Yepsen: VERY QUICKLY.

Grundberg: IT'S GOOD. IT'S VERY GOOD, BUT IT CAN BE BETTER.

Yepsen: THANK YOU, THANK YOU BOTH. WE APPRECIATE YOU BEING WITH US TODAY. ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF IOWA PRESS, OUR SPOTLIGHT REMAINS ON THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE 78TH IOWA GENERAL ASSEMBLY, AND OUR FOCUS IS ON TAXES. JOINING US ARE THE CHAIRS OF THE LEGISLATURE'S WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEES, SENATOR JOANN JOHNSON OF ADEL AND REPRESENTATIVE JAMIE VAN FOSSEN OF DAVENPORT. THAT'S NEXT SUNDAY AT 11:00 IN THE MORNING. NOW, WE'RE ONLY HERE AT 11:00 NEXT SUNDAY DUE TO OUR ONGOING COVERAGE OF THE FRIENDS FESTIVAL. WE WON'T BE ON AT 7:00. SO ADJUST YOUR SCHEDULE OR RESET THE VCR. DEAN BORG WILL BE REJOINING US AT 11:00 A.M. NEXT SUNDAY, AND I HOPE YOU WILL AS WELL. UNTIL THEN, I'M DAVID YEPSEN OF THE DES MOINES REGISTER. THANKS FOR JOINING US HERE ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION.

FUNDING FOR IOWA PRESS WAS PROVIDED BY FRIENDS OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION. AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS. AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.