Attracting Talent: You’re Doing It Wrong

I’d just like Iowa state house republicans to be very sure about what they’re doing, because, given the absolute all-the-best-people-shit-show your party has become, it’s really hard for me to just give the benefit of even a shadow of a doubt.

I work in one of the most innovative schools in the country, and we grew it here in Cedar Rapids, IA; a washed up, blue collar river town with urban school buildings and everything! We’re like Iowa’s Detroit!

Creating this innovation was expensive, and we were lucky enough to have had local private money to help fund this innovation—and they funded it IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM.

Without that support, we’d be in exactly the same position as every other district in Iowa: if we’re lucky enough to have a mall in our tax base, maybe we can sort of, kind of, innovate. So, while you’re giving tax breaks to business for the sake of economic stimulus, perhaps those newly-lined pockets should be looking at helping to design the schools they want without looking to some joke of a Strip malls with computers labs, is this what you want?.

When you toss us a bone that’s 1.1% bigger than last year’s bone, but has grown less than the price of milk, drum roll please…


It feels like you’re employing both sides of your tremendous, bigly big-league mouth. Education isn’t business, it’s an institution, and I’d really like it if someone in Des Moines could state that in their own words so I can be sure you understand before the quiz. You can’t starve education into competition and innovation. The families who need those innovations are already starving.

I’m sorry if this is too grim for the making-America-great-again business model…  Oh! Let’s ask my top students what they want to do with their lives—That’ll be a fun and inspiring diversion from talking about money—Doctor, Lawyer, Videographer, Small Business Owner.

Not teacher. Not administrator.

I wonder why? Maybe because they can’t trust that giving their lives to service will be compensated? Maybe because they see their own teachers taking on more students, for paychecks that drop every year when compared to inflation. Maybe because they just want health insurance, and they can’t trust your preposterous non-solutions for Obamacare. Maybe, just maybe they want to pay their student loans off before they die!

So, dearest republican friend, when you gut our healthcare and our dental plans; when you get rid of bargaining for the sake of “competition” just remember, you’re already getting the best you can get.

I’m sure you’re looking at ruining IPERS for the 2018 session, so please remember that all your bull shit about “investing in the future” means that you’re investing in attracting middling talent.

People like me are going to look elsewhere. If that sounds arrogant, then you’ve correctly identified the problem: if I’m in the top 10% of teachers in the state, you’re screwed.


Congrats for reading this far! I know it’s hard to hear a liberal through all the rainbows and multiculturalism. I need to talk about innovation.

I work for a giant school district and a giant privately own company here in Cedar Rapids. I’m proud of both, viciously proud. When innovation is attempted in my school district, I hear the creaking of a Spanish galleon. Everyone compulsively looks up at the deck above them and wonders if today is the day the oak beams give. This is not the culture of innovation, it’s fear, and it’s the direct result of being told you’re expendable, reducible, and not doing a good enough job (through SSA reductions).

When I see innovation in my second job (because why wouldn’t a teacher have a second job!) I see people converging their eyebrows and really working through why the innovation is good for the company and its culture. Sure, there are groans, sure automating that process wasn’t supposed to happen for 5 more years, sure organizing into scrums isn’t the hierarchy that the 25-year employees are used to, but, hey, we’ve got cash and we train and give latitude for these things to be considered. The teachers? They have another 30+ students coming in the door in 10 seconds, 15 of which have ACE scores of 4+.

Innovation is not reform. Reform is switching from oak beams to hickory. Innovation and transformation are ditching the boat for a plane. Innovation is getting rid of class schedules. Innovation is drawing curriculum not from Texas-and-California driven text book mongers, but seeking if from business, nonprofit, and government agencies. Innovation is keeping your employees away from the reptile part of their brains (Whoops! Evolution reference, sorry), and in their creative frontal cortices.

So, please, please, be really sure about what you’re doing right now, because my top student just laughed at me when I asked if they’d like to work in a school.