Let's Face It: Without Good Public Schools, Iowa's Marketability Takes a Nose-Dive.

From a marketing standpoint, watching Iowa underfund and cut away at its public school system is like watching Pepsi's marketing team say: "But, hey guys, what IF, and I'm just spitballing here, we do a Pepsi commercial that awkwardly combines general protests with Black Lives Matter with police-vs-community-issues with head scarves and then top it all off with one of the Jenners solving everyones' problems with a can of Pepsi? Huh?"

Nooooo!!!!!!!! Don't do it, Pepsi!!!! ........ Oops, too late.

Like a lot of people, I'm not sure what Iowa's current legislature is trying to accomplish with our public school system. Low-balling spending increases, removing infrastructure funds, and using public money for private schools all seem to me like they'd be detrimental for public schools. But maybe they've got another rationale: 

Legislator 1: "We could always just take some money from schools."

Legislator 2: "Is there extra money they don't need?"

Legislator 1: "Hmm .... not really. Actually, we gave them less than they were asking for already."

Legislator 2: "Why would people want to live here then?

Legislator 1: "The mountains and perfect weather?"

Legislator 2: "Oh, dag-nabbit, OF COURSE! I forgot about all of Iowa's natural amenities! Mountains, beaches, and perfect weather. We don't need schools at all!"

Legislator 1: "Don't forget legal cannabis!"

Legislator 2: "Cut, baby, cut!" 

No!!!!!!! Guys, you've mixed up Iowa with California again! We DON'T have mountains or beaches. What we DO have is a great society that has been traditionally grown around a strong public school system. A public school system that produced me (maybe that's your problem with it) and almost every other RAYGUN employee. My kids go to public schools in Des Moines. Their friends go to public schools. We not only put a public school on our state quarter, but the guy who painted that picture in the first place went to a public school and taught at a public university (and was gay, which maybe is your problem with it). Some look at public education as a liability to be managed and pruned. But public Education is one of our biggest assets. The beating heart of all development -- social, economic, artistic.

This is not a “Make Public Schools Great Again” argument. Our schools are already great (despite some officials’ efforts). This is a “Make Public Schools Even Better” argument. I look at the public education system in Iowa as a great institution that, like any institution, needs constant improvement, updating, and funding. We should be an Iowa that is always striving to create the very best.

But if our legislators were engineers, they’d be looking to add performance to a vehicle by taking off one of the tires.

By now, most legislators have stopped reading this column. ALEC has passed them their latest gun bill and they’ve snapped into action. But if I assume they started reading this from the middle and are still paying attention, they’d probably roll their eyes at me rolling my eyes and start in on me:

Legislator 1: “Well, Mr Snowflake, you think you’re so smart—“

Me: “Thank you, and handsome.”

Legislator 1: “—but, listen, you don’t spur prosperity by spending on schools. You’ve gotta focus on economic development.”

Me: “How much ‘prosperity’ has your guys’ ‘economic development’ created for Iowa this year?”

Legislator 1: “Oh, about, NEGATIVE $150 million, give-or-take. But you gotta understand, that farm prices are down a little bit, sooo….”

Me: “Well, ag may be a big part of the economy, but it's actually smaller than retail in Iowa. So farm prices being off a few percentage points should not throw our entire balance sheet haywire. The economy lags because our core equation is off.”

That equation will keep this state perpetually spinning it’s wheels. You don’t generate economic development through a patchwork of subsidies for outside companies and cutting services (don't believe me? Just ask Kansas), you generate economic development by making better use of existing resources. We should look at the human talent already in this state and say, “How can we make better use of this talent? How can we free up this talent to generate ideas and innovation?"

If Iowa was looking to: 1) save families money, 2) kick-start massive economic innovation, and 3) make this a better place to live, they would find the answer to all of that in Public Education. 

We need to take our already-great age 5 to age 18 public education system and turn it into a fully public age 0 to age18 school system. 

Right now, day care will cost the average Iowa family from $30,000 for part time to $90,000 for full time. Per child. 2 children in full time daycare not only drains parents’ energy (finding day care, changing day car), but it will cost that family roughly $180,000 until those 2 kids reach public school age. 

Many families, mine included, have found that it is cheaper to have one spouse NOT work entirely. 20-30-somethings exiting the labor force because part-time day-care doesn’t make sense, and full-time-daycare is not something we’d like to do. 

Imagine if there were a free, universal, public option for 0 to 5 education. It could be used on a part time or full time basis. But just 2 days a week of public school for toddlers would save that family $30,000 per child in daycare costs. It would not only give the parents a bit of a psychological reprieve from their little miracle, it may also give them the change to work a little bit outside of child-rearing. 

That extra time and money from young parents can go back to the economy in a meaningful way. 

And, unlike corporate handouts, 0-18 public education would give Iowa a calling card that no other state could match: the greatest public education system in the country -- by far. 

Legislator 1: “Hey, bub, if you hate Iowa so much and love California, why don’t you just live there?”

Me: “Because I live here. I was born only a few blocks from the Des Moines store. And there’s a funeral home between there and here. So I could spend my life, start to finish, mainly in one small stretch of Des Moines’ East Side."

Legislator 1: "That's the gay part of the city, right?"  

Me: "The odds of me moving anywhere else are as close to zero as you can get. And while I’m here, I’m going to advocate for what is in the best interest of this state." 

Legislator 1: “Handguns?”

Me: “Weren’t you reading this blog post?!”

Legislator 1: “I was skimming it. Jeez.”

Me: “Listen, don’t throw public schools under the bus. Or, if you do, you better be replacing it with a bad-ass mountain range!”

Legislator 1: “Let me ask ALEC for you!”