Introduction

For several years I’ve been inspired by the TennesseePromise.gov program, a ‘college for all program’ created by a conservative Republican governor Bill Haslam. Making higher education more accessible is a strategy used by conservatives and those in business to promote a greater skilled workforce for industry and economic prosperity. It’s not only good for business but also for individuals who want to live a more fulfilling and successful life. These conditions produce a stronger more resilient nation. Oddly, when a similar program was advocated by Bernie Sanders, it was said to be unrealistic. Some Democrats and Republicans rejected the idea as too ‘socialist.’

Benefits of Accessible Education

Greater access to higher education understandably results in higher rates of employment, a decline of homelessness, improved health statistics, a reduction in crime, and lower incarceration rates that can lead to the closure of costly state prisons. It’s a fairly simply and inexpensive way to boost the economy and because of the many benefits there are usually few opponents to such proposals.

Education at Risk

On 11 January 2017, I posted the following commentary on Facebook:

EDUCATION – Many states are now seeking to invest heavily in higher education by providing college education to all their residents in a way that would replicate the success of the TennesseePromise.gov program which results in a highly skilled and educated workforce that attracts industry, creates jobs, and helps build the state economy.

Congratulations to Tennessee and other states that are now prospering from their investment in higher education. It’s not just profitable, but it’s the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, in Iowa, Governor Terry Branstad is taking a different approach to higher education. He is planning a $34.2 million cut in higher education. This move is unlikely to produce a more educated workforce. It’s unlikely to encourage industry to move to Iowa. It’s unlikely to create jobs. It is unlikely to inspire individuals to come to Iowa.

Nobody has ever looked at a struggling state economy and concluded: “Well, here’s your problem… You’ve got too many well educated people with good paying jobs working for strong businesses. Get rid of education and that will fix everything.” Yet, somehow, that’s the proposition being put before our Iowa legislators right now. (Source: Facebook, 11 Jan 2017 at 9:21 AM CT)

Cuts in Education Funding Approved

Yesterday, Iowa Senator Joe Bolkcom announced that Iowa legislators approved an education funding cut of $117.8 million:

Bad News from the State Capitol: The Senate Republicans approved $113 million in mid-year budget cuts today that will cause tuition increases for every community college and public university student and family in Iowa, place vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities and children at more risk and reduce public safety in our communities. The burden for the cuts is being shouldered by working Iowans. Not one dollar of spending is being cut from the faster growing part of state government; tax cuts to big businesses.

Here is what I posted in response:

EDUCATION – Bewildering news from our state capitol. Iowa legislators have decided to significantly cut funding for public education. This is the exact opposite of what other states are doing (see TennesseePromise.gov as an example). Joe Bolkcom sums this up well in the video statement below. It’s worth watching.

Here’s a summary from Joe’s post: “The Senate Republicans approved $113 million in mid-year budget cuts today that will cause tuition increases for every community college and public university student and family in Iowa, place vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities and children at more risk and reduce public safety in our communities. The burden for the cuts is being shouldered by working Iowans. Not one dollar of spending is being cut from the faster growing part of state government; tax cuts to big businesses.”

An Important Message from Iowa Senator Joe Bolkcom

Below is the audio of Joe Bolkcom’s message to Iowa legislators regarding the importance of funding education.

Benefits to Having an Uneducated Citizenry

Stories like this one can be perplexing. Given the many proven benefits of investing in education, one might wonder how anyone could possibly vote for a less educated society. What could possibly be the benefit? Some believe that having uneducated and disenfranchised citizens ensures there can’t be an organized, effective, or informed resistance to oppression and exploitation. Poor, uneducated, and desperate people are more malleable and willing to work long hours, for low wages, in unsafe conditions. If you know of other possible perceived benefits to having an uneducated public, please share them in the comments below.

Those who want an uneducated citizenry, as well as those who don’t accept common sense and data driven decision making, make it difficult to build a strong public education system.

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