The Washington Times - May 9, 2009, 11:11AM

Phasing us out…..

Rural life revolves around our kids and their activities. Last night summer baseball season began in earnest with the first t-ball games of the summer!

 I say “summer” loosely, because even though I was golfing with my high school kids earlier in the afternoon in shorts and a t-shirt in balmy 75-degree weather, true to Iowa form, by evening I was pulling a quilt out of the trunk to watch my kindergartener sing through his glove on third base.

If you have not attended a t-ball game in your life, you are missing a good time. Here, regardless of team affiliation every hit, catch, and throw is cheered on enthusiastically no matter where it has been hit or if it was caught or thrown perfectly. It is a community effort – as is most life in a small town.

Our Iowa legislators have taken yet another step in an attempt at ending our way of life. In the wee hours of morning lawmaking, legislation was passed to end Phase I funding for our schools.

Twenty years ago, Phase I funding was given to schools in an effort to help rural schools attract and retain quality teachers. This funding is used to help them stay competitive in the salaries they can offer their teachers. It was important then and it is important now.

 Without warning or planning, Phase I funding is being yanked away – without any thought as to the effects on the rural districts in the state. Smaller districts, such as the one I live teach and believe in, will be most affected. The smallest districts in the state will most likely be looking at closing their doors – just the start of ending small town life as we all know it.

One alternative to an abrupt ending of Phase I monies is quite obvious. It may well be time for districts to be picking up this extra expense on their own, but a leveled program for doing so may have been a bit more sensible – that may have helped the smaller districts – obviously not what our legislators had in mind.

For me, this isn’t about money — even though I stand to lose $2,500 from my salary if my district can’t come up with the difference. I will stay here because I believe in our way of life.  We send most of our kids on to secondary education —two-year and four- year institutions. We raise children with a sense of duty to their community who serve their country in the military before and after college  —my own son is now among those ranks. 

We are a country of cities, small towns, and farms…. Where will we be when our small towns and people are gone? The people willing to dig in and do what needs to be done, whether it’s a kid’s t-ball game or controlling an influenza epidemic,  these types of people come from all over America and all walks of life.

Not just school districts over 1,000 in size.