des moines, News, People, politics

Bill to remove teacher test is an A+ idea

A bill that would remove testing as a requirement for teaching licenses is before the Iowa Senate. 

It passed the House unanimously. 

Dear Iowa Senate, please pass this bill and get it under Gov. Kim Reynolds pen at once. 

I rarely speak publicly about political issues anymore, but I confess my vested interest in this one. 

I’m student teaching this semester and if this bill doesn’t pass, I’ll have to file a blizzard of paperwork and pay $300 to a private testing company for evaluation. 

If I pass the evaluation, I’ve finally earned the right to pay the state $165 for a license to do a job so very few people want to do for wages that impress no one.

A $300 fee may sound small. If you took your car to the mechanic with a “rattle rattle, thump, bang bang” and walked out for less than $300, you’d be thrilled. 

But that’s not the whole picture. 

My tuition at Drake University this semester was more than $12,000.

Yes, I could have gone through a different school with lower tuition, this is a master’s program.

I’m 46 years old. I can’t afford to start over to the fresh-out-of-college salary scale. Most districts will start a new teacher with a master’s degree in a higher pay lane. 

Student loans funded every dollar of my last two years of school. I’ll be paying that until I die. 

So it goes. I’m pretty sure dying in debt is basically the same as dying rich. 

What’s another $300 on top of that?

It’s more principle than anything.

Presently, there are two kinds of tests you can take to earn a license. One is a pair of exams, one for general teaching and another specific to your discipline such as English or math.

The other is a complex collection of video recorded work with students, unit plans, and essays with 17 different rubrics.

Both tracks cost $300. 

You generally take them as you’re student teaching. 

Student teaching is the capstone of education school for both undergraduates and graduate students. 

You worked side-by-side with an experienced teacher for roughly four months, including leading classes for four to six weeks. 

Student teachers are not paid. 

They are working full time. They are not getting paid. 

You are actively discouraged from having a part-time job, though some of my classmates do. 

How they handle it is beyond me. Student teaching is the most taxing thing I’ve ever done. The level of executive function — the sheer amount of stuff you have to keep straight — is staggering. 

I come home from days and collapse into bed by 7 p.m. 

As a student teacher, I’m evaluated twice a week by a mentor teacher — usually a retired teacher interested in passing along good pedagogy to a new generation. 

I’m observed nearly every minute by my classroom teacher. 

I talk regularly about progress with both teachers and my professors at Drake. Our class has weekly seminar meetings — also a class I have to pay for. 

In the end, I need three letters of recommendation from people who have seen me teach. 

If I haven’t impressed my classroom teacher or my supervising teacher, I’m in trouble. 

My point is this: How many tests are enough?

I’ve taken pedagogy. I’ve taken subject classes. I lived the journalism. 

I’m constantly observed and have excelled at an accredited university that sets its standards in line with both the state and the latest ideas on teaching teachers. 

The thing is, the test isn’t a measure of potential in a future teacher.

It isn’t even a measure of how good they are at taking tests or writing rubrics. 

It’s a grift. 

Private testing companies shakedown education majors for a few hundred bucks after they’ve already stacked up thousands in debt to take a job that faces historic shortages. 

I’ve only been in a classroom since January. Already I am a changed person. I had no idea what I didn’t know about this job. 

It is hard work. It might be the hardest civilian non-first responder or peace officer job there is. 

Sometimes I think I’ve permanently scrambled my egg to think I could do this. 

But I’m getting better everyday. And I think I love even on the days I’m cursing into my pillow at night. 

So, yes, please Iowa lawmakers and Gov. Reynolds, remove one expensive hurdle for me and the thousands of students working hard to become the teachers our state so desperately needs. 

Former journalist Daniel P. Finney writes columns for the Marion County Gazette. Reach him at

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.

des moines, Iowa, News

Legalize recreational weed to ease budget woes

Photo by Dimitri Bong via Unsplash

Toke up, Iowa.
It’s time.
Legalize marijuana.
Medicinal. Recreational. Whatever.

Let’s do it.

This is not for me. I’ve smoked weed twice. I liked it.

But I spend big money on pharmaceuticals to keep my brain chemistry regulated. I worry weed, however benevolent, would put stress on a system already not up to code.

No, the reason I want legal weed and the reason every Iowan should is the oldest reason in the world: money.

More specifically, tax revenues.

The coronavirus pandemic kicked us in the rear end when it comes to projected sales, business and other tax revenues.

Our schools and public works will suffer greatly unless we do something to get money pouring back into the local and state accounts.

Legalizing marijuana for any and all purposes is one route.

It’s not the only route and it certainly won’t fix projected shortfalls in city and state budgets alone.

But it will sure help.

Early projections of heavily populated states such as California raising $1 billion from legalized pot sales proved laughably wrong. California made about $500 million in revenue for the fiscal year that ended in June 2019.

Still, that’s $500 million into the state’s general fund that wasn’t there before and didn’t involve income tax or property tax increases.

Colorado raked in more than $250 million and Washington more than $450 million.

Iowa, of course, has a much smaller population than those states and, thus, fewer people who would indulge in recreational marijuana.

But the idea deserves serious consideration.

People justifiably worry about addiction.

That’s a legitimate concern.

Except that very few people scream and holler about addiction to alcohol, which is far more common. We allow beer and booze to be associated with every event save high school sports.

If there’s a good time to be had, it’s to be had with beer. Count the commercials for beer in a baseball game when the season finally starts up later this month. I’ll bet its more than runs scored in most games.

Legalizing marijuana also takes some of the burden off police officers during this era of racial reckoning.

Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have called on mayors in Des Moines and across the country to make marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement concern.

Lowest? Let’s try no concern at all.

A buddy of mine served as a military police officer and then member of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command.

He often said he never went to a violent domestic abuse scene where everybody was stoned. He never went to a bloody fatal vehicle crash where the driver was stoned.

It was always alcohol.

Legalizing pot won’t solve the pending budget crises brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Unemployment curtailed consumer spending, which is more than 70 percent of the national economy.

Iowa schools have shifted some of their physical plant costs to sales tax revenues. When those revenues drop, as they have during the pandemic, school buildings start to decay and development gets delayed.

Iowa added another penny-per-dollar to its sales tax to pay for billions in delayed road repairs and improvements. Sales stagnated for nearly a quarter of 2020 and may be hit again if a predicted coronavirus resurgence or second wave hits.

Unemployment remains high.

State income tax increases are almost a certainty baring an economic miracle in the coming months.

Everyone hates income taxes.

Well, I don’t think that’s precisely true.

People hate government waste, and the dominate narrative for several generations now is that almost anything the government does is wasteful.

That isn’t true, either. But let’s not get into that here.

What Iowa lawmakers need to do is get creative.

The road ahead is bumpy. Legalized recreational marijuana might smooth things out in more ways than one.

Daniel P. Finney, independent journalist

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy. is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit