With all due respect to Rep. Cohoon and his concerns about the future, we are fairly certain few, if any Iowans are listening to him, and we don't blame those who aren't.
Raising the gas tax was controversial and opposed by many Iowans. Talk about more increases in funding for transportation less than two months after its passage by the Legislature is incredibly ill-timed.
For today, the focus within state government in Iowa should be maximizing the value of raising the gas tax and allowing the increase to work for the state in the ways we are confident it will.
Tomorrow's transportation needs are a topic for, well, tomorrow.
Iowa City Press-Citizen. May 2, 2015.
Hiring more minorities brings new challenges
The Iowa City Community School District announced its intent this week to make enormous strides to increase the diversity of its staff and administrators within the next five years. The district's goal is to increase minority staff in the areas of race and ethnicity to 15 percent in each category by 2020.
While we laud the district for paying attention to such metrics, we hope the district is ready for the challenges that will come with implementing the action plans to achieve these goals.
ICCSD equity data for the current school year show 42 of 969 teachers, or 4.33 percent, are minorities, and 87 of 825 support staff members, or 10.55 percent, are minorities. No administrators were minorities based on the Oct. 1 data, but the district has since hired two — equity director Kingsley Botchway and a new principal for South East Junior High, Amber Boyd, who are both black.
In a district where more than 35 percent of the student body is minority, the numbers of minority faculty, staff and administration are visibly lagging. And while the minority population of our student body has increased steadily over the past 10 years, according to enrollment data, the hiring of minority and diverse employees has not.
Botchway said officials plan to increase the number of minority staff hired by diversifying the district's applicant pool through partnerships with universities and search firms, and by adjusting how the district advertises job openings.
Teacher diversity is not just an Iowa City problem. A 2014 Pew research study showed that for the first time in the country's history, nearly half of the country's nearly 50 million public school students were children of color in 2014, at 49.7 percent. Conversely, 82 percent of teachers were white, according to the study.
Why does increasing the number of minority teachers matter, you might ask. Well, it matters a lot.
Evidence also exists showing that this "diversity gap" between teachers and students is directly tied to the "achievement gap" of minority students.
An April 2015 study published in the Economics of Education Review shows that minority teachers are better equipped to counter negative stereotypes minority students face. They're also able to serve as role models and mentors for those students, according to the study, and less likely to hold biased views of a minority student's academic ability because they can directly relate to the student's cultural background.
The study showed:
— Black, white and Asian students who had teachers who looked like them did better on standardized tests than in a year when the same students had a teacher of a different ethnicity.
— The effects were generally largest for elementary-aged and lower-performing students.
— Elementary-aged black students, in particular, showed greater benefit from having a teacher of similar ethnicity.
As district officials begin to hire more minorities, however, we hope they are prepared for a new challenge — retention.
If minority teachers feel isolation, or aren't able to share professional experiences with others who are like them, they are more likely to leave to find jobs elsewhere. Again, that won't be just an Iowa City problem; it happens at school districts — and other places of business — across the country that don't employ significant numbers of minorities.
Ultimately, we agree that improvement needs to be made.
But as the district begins to modify its recruitment and hiring practices and procedures, it is imperative — not to mention the law — that the best candidate for the job is hired, no matter their race or gender.
Fort Dodge Messenger. May 2, 2015.
IRS drops the ball on customer service
More than 8 million times during the past few months, the Internal Revenue Service's telephone system hung up on taxpayers who wanted help. Only 40 percent of those whose calls did get through were able to talk to a human being. Many of them had to endure more than half an hour on hold before that happened.
Members of Congress who heard that report from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen recently were furious. They should be.
According to an investigation by the House Ways and Means Committee, the IRS diverted $134 million spent on customer service in 2014 to other purposes this year. The sort of lack of concern for serving the nation's taxpayers does not make the IRS look good.
Ask yourself this:What would happen if the IRS called you — and you hung up on them? Pretty clearly the excuse that you were short-staffed wouldn't be well-received. This fiasco must be promptly corrected. Congress should insist that in the future taxpayers are treated with proper respect.