By Christopher Borro
Recent state budget cuts affecting state universities were a major concern at the League of Women Voters of Johnson County public forum on Jan. 27.
On Jan. 25, the state Senate proposed a bill that would cut funding to the University of Iowa by around $8.6 million in order to balance the state budget. It would also cut funding to community colleges and the other two public universities in the state, Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa.
Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, a member of the panel, described the budget situation as “a mess.”
“Who isn’t proud to be a Hawkeye?” he said. “[The UI] attracts the best students, and we’re getting a good mainframe of helping students with their education, but … we’re not valuing a four-year education like we should.”
Rep. Amy Nielsen, D-North Liberty, was also dismayed about the current budget situation.
“I’d rather the schools not have to work under such budgetary constraints,” she said. “But they’ve done a good job of dealing with that. So far, we’re not seeing students’ test scores suffer.”
The event was co-hosted by the Iowa City Education Association, the Iowa City School District, and the UI.
Topics ranged from funding transportation and lunch programs for summer schools to a discussion about raising the standards of early childhood education.
The Iowa Virtual Academy was another issue. The pilot program constitutes an online K-12 education at two Iowa locations, CAM School District and Clayton Ridge, where classes are entirely conducted online.
Nielsen said she did not view this program as a success.
“They have bad test scores, high dropout rates, and low engagement,” she said. “Students don’t have any kind of social interaction with peers.”
League of Women Voters coordinators said this event was one of a series of forums, to be followed in February and March with discussions on the environment and housing situations.
Event organizer Paula Vaughan said that through the series, the organization hopes the public becomes more informed.
“That’s the whole purpose,” she said. “Constituents can hear directly from their legislators. They learn what’s going on in Des Moines. People, when they have an interest in a particular topic, they’ll know who to talk to, they’ll know when it’s time to talk to somebody, and they can track bills they’re interested in. It’s really public education.”