I Have to Take a Second Job to Support my Teaching Habit: Thanks #ialegis

I am the headmaster of Iowa BIG, one of the most progressive public school programs in Iowa and in the Nation. We were featured speakers at SXSW and at the PioneerBasecamp Policy Summit in DC, in just the last month. I make the salary of every other 7th-year teacher in my district, with some added hours to reflect my partial managerial responsibilities.

If the Iowa State Legislature underfunds schools again in 2015-2016, my school district will eventually not be able to afford me, my space, my staff, and will be forced to cut staff from other buildings. The current proposal of a 1.25% increase to public school budgets state-wide is an insult to those of us who literally lose sleep over other people’s children (To be fair, I also have a newborn).

What’s a professional to do? If your employer (the state of Iowa) doesn’t value you, leave, right?

Well, sort of.

Here’s my plan: I’m going to take another job as a web developer and database consultant and donate this salary back to my school district. The Cedar Rapids Community School District can then issue me a part-time contract. I will work my usual 60 hours/week at Iowa BIG and do development work after my kids are in bed and on the weekends.

Because that’s what teachers do.

I’d love to have just one job, but in 2015, I suppose I’m supposed to be innovative and feed my family on altruism.

In the 2016 legislative session, I’d love to see a 4.2% increase slated for both ’16-’17 and ’17-’18, please; I’m so tired.1

The Angry:

If we could stop spending money ruining our top soil, burning corn, literally sucking the oxygen out of the Gulf of Mexico, subsidizing the production of diabetes-causing garbage food, and worrying about how many people can get a fried stick of butter (and when!), maybe we could start worrying about the underlying reasons that the legislature wants to starve schools and watch them wither.

Oh, is “wither” too strong a word? Did I not congratulate you enough on keeping health insurance companies and factory farms happy? Oh, those are the backbone of Iowa’s economy, you say?

Lies! Start-ups are, and that’s what Iowa BIG breeds.

Quaker Oats? Start-up.

Geonetric? Start-up.

Dwolla? Start-up.

Every. Sustainable. Farmer? An entrepreneur.

You need Iowa BIG. You need me and my team. So, I’m going to take my second job in the tech industry like so many late-night waitresses before me, and work to buoy my school district during the day, because, to me, students matter more than corn byproducts.

The Numbers

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 12.42.40 PM
From Iowa’s LSA


Allow me to explain.

You see, the State Cost Per Pupil (SCPP, blue) is used to calculate the next year’s contribution to school districts. Almost all of our funding comes from the total head count of the students we serve, which is why the ever-increasing burden is something smaller schools are finding untenable. They just can’t afford an engineering teacher and a drug counselor when their Student:Teacher is below 16:1.

The real rub is that when you underfund one year, you essentially create a multiplicative hole, but that’s a hole you can put lipstick on!

The politicking goes like this: We had a couple of lean years during the Recession, but now we can get back to inflationary allowable growth of >3%! Except that these years will only ever multiply by numbers that were too low going into the Recession and have stayed low. 3% of low stays low.

So, in essence even a “generous” 4.2%, just barely begins to make up for lost ground, underserved graduates that already exist (which is now a decade-long problem, by the way), and programs that are looking to revolutionize Iowa’s work force, like Iowa BIG.

We’ll have to save the property tax nightmare for another post! Suffice it to say, I’m really excited for my 80/hour work weeks, because they’ll allow my school district be able to afford schools like Iowa BIG.

TL;DR: I’m taking a second job, donating income to CRCSD, so that I can work for free full-time at Iowa BIG.


1. The Iowa legislature can decide school funding for two years into the future.