Randy Richardson

Concept charter school application raises questions

Randy Richardson is a former educator and retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association. Amy Moore, Ed.D is a longtime Iowa public school educator.

Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill in May 2021 that made it easier to organize charter schools in Iowa. Two Iowa-based entities took advantage of the change and applied to start charter schools the following year. Choice Charter School is an online only school for grades 9-12 that enrolled 96 students as on November 4. They hope to increase enrollment to around 300 students by the end of the year.

Hamburg Charter High School is located in Southwest Iowa and operates as a career and technical academy that enrolls 35 students. Hamburg lost its high school in 2015 after the Department of Education found they had overspent state dollars and had offered insufficient classes. The charter school provides an option for high school students in that area.

In November of this year, Iowa received its first charter school application from an out-of-state organization. Concept Schools, an Illinois-based, nonprofit charter school management company, is seeking to open the Horizon Science Academy. If approved, the school would focus on enrolling students from low-income and minority neighborhoods.

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It’s time to talk about teacher pay

Randy Richardson is a former educator and retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association.

In 2019 I wrote a Bleeding Heartland article about the growing disparity between administrative and teacher salaries. At the time I didn’t anticipate that the situation would get much worse. I hoped that Iowa’s ever-increasing rainy day funds might be used when pay became more of a problem. 

Regrettably, here I am again three years later, encouraging Iowans to focus on what has become a major issue.

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Our public schools need a fighter like Shannon Henson

Randy Richardson: Shannon Henson’s background and experience make her most ready to lead among the six Democrats running in Iowa House district 36.

For more than a decade, Republican lawmakers in Iowa have consistently underfunded our public schools and chipped away at the rights of our educators. Teachers and support staff have lost most of their collective bargaining rights, and teachers are now under attack for their so-called “sinister agenda.”

Public schools are the great equalizer. Ideally, they allow children—regardless of their family’s socioeconomic status, the foundation they need for their future. In Iowa, 485,000 children attend our public schools.

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Iowa's flat tax may mean fewer public services

Randy Richardson: Everyone likes paying lower taxes until they realize they may not receive the same benefits from the government.

Americans hate taxes. Other countries have taxes, including some with much higher tax rates, but for some reason their citizens don’t have the same objections as their American counterparts.

There are a variety of reasons for this, but one of the most common is that many Americans are simply unaware of what government does for them. A 2008 Cornell Survey Research Institute poll showed that 57 percent of respondents said they had never participated in a government social program. However, 94 percent of these same respondents reported being the beneficiary of at least one federal government program, with the average participant benefiting from four of them.

Which brings me to the recently enacted flat income tax bill in Iowa.

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Kim Reynolds’ school voucher plan is pure politics

Randy Richardson: Most of the benefit will go to middle class students in regular education and small districts in heavily Republican areas.

During her recent Condition of the State address, Governor Kim Reynolds announced her intent to create Students First Scholarships. Among educators these “scholarships” are more commonly known as “vouchers.”

Parents could use the scholarships to cover the costs of moving their children from public schools to private ones. Any remaining funds could help cover qualified education expenses such as tutoring, curriculum or material costs, vocational or life skills training, and community college or other higher education expenses.

Each voucher will be equal to $5,359, or 70 percent of a state education funding for each K-12 public school student. The remaining $2,270 or 30 percent will remain with the state to be reallocated to smaller, often rural, school districts.

According to the governor, this will be done because losing funding for just one student can have a significant impact in a small rural school. Of course, this is an election year and those small schools happen to be located in heavily Republican parts of the state.

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Republicans continue to attack Iowa public schools

Randy Richardson reviews the education bills Iowa lawmakers passed during the 2021 session. -promoted by Laura Belin

According to the Republican Party of Iowa’s website, Republicans believe “individuals, not the government, make the best decisions; all people are entitled to equal rights; and decisions are best made close to home.”

While the party may espouse those beliefs, their actions on public education hardly exemplify those statements.

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