Axios Des Moines

Picture of the Des Moines skyline with DSM written across it.

January 04, 2022

Hi there, Tuesday. High of 35 today.

⚾ A $600K surprise: Michael Gartner, the longtime owner of the Iowa Cubs, gave his full-time employees surprise bonus checks for each year they worked for the minor league team.

Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 934 words — a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: The teacher exodus of 2022

Illustration of a chalkboard with a waving hand emoji drawn on it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Expect to see more Iowa educators leave the profession earlier than expected, especially when their contracts are up this summer, Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association, told Axios.

Why it matters: Staffing shortages remain one of the biggest challenges for the 2021-22 school year, as districts try to draw in workers by doing everything from increasing substitute pay, giving bonuses and closing buildings to give more time off.

  • At this rate, 2022-23 doesn't appear much different, Beranek said.

State of play: Typically, schools worry teachers will leave the field in under five years, but Beranek said some are now fearful new educators will leave within one or two years.

  • Some already quit in the middle of the year, choosing not to finish out their contracts.
  • "We are in a real tough position," Beranek said.

By the numbers: As of Monday, there are at least 128 full-time openings for teachers and administrators in central Iowa.

  • When you factor in special education associates and support staff, that number jumps to 290, according to Teach Iowa.

What needs to change: A solution to better retention is emphasizing the state's existing Teacher Leadership & Compensation System, said Ryan Wise, education dean at Drake University and former director of the state Department of Education.

  • The program already has a system in place that gives teachers opportunities to become leaders, help their peers and earn more money.

Yes, but: Mentors who are supposed to offer guidance in classrooms are now getting pulled to teach themselves, Wise said.

The next step: Attracting new people may require lowering the barriers of entry into the field, such as licensure and higher education costs.

  • For the upcoming legislative session, Wise said he hopes lawmakers use COVID relief funds to create grants that ease extra costs.
  • He also wants them to be mindful of how their controversial debates on issues like masks or books influence retention.

What they're saying: "Yes, there is a teacher shortage. At the same time, we need to also have a spirit of optimism around the opportunities that exist and really the calling that I think many people, young people especially, have to give back," Wise said.

📣 Shoutout: Have staff shortages impacted your kid's school? Hit reply and let us know what you're seeing.

2. Help a family in need

Five kids who need assistance

Bazirake Kariya's five children. Photo courtesy of Eugene Kiruhura

Five Des Moines kids are in need of help after their parents died unexpectedly this past year.

State of play: Pastor Eugene Kiruhura of Shalom Covenant Church is asking for donations to help the children of Bazirake Kariya, their father who died in an icy car accident on New Year's Eve.

  • The children's mother died earlier this year during child birth, Kiruhura said.
  • The family immigrated to the U.S. three years ago as refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

At the moment, the kids are staying with their grandparents.

  • "It's very hard. They're just at home, crying," Kiruhura said.

How to help: You can donate to a GoFundMe set up by Kiruhura for the family.

  • Or send checks to Shalom Covenant Church at 7605 Aurora Ave., Urbandale, Iowa. Memo: Helping 5 Kids.

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3. 💰 Iowa Business Council's 1 big thing in 2022

Illustration of a hundred dollar bill in the shape of a Rubik's cube

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We're spotlighting the biggest 2022 goals of community groups and metro leaders this week.

  • Hit reply and tell us yours. We'll share some in an upcoming newsletter.

Today's top priority comes from the Iowa Business Council (IBC), which aims to help create a more competitive statewide tax policy this year, according to spokesperson Christopher Diebel.

State of play: Iowa's state government is sitting on a $1.24 billion budget surplus.

What they're saying: Reducing taxes on businesses and individuals would help attract employers and people to the state, IBC's director Joe Murphy said in an online statement.

4. The Ear: A breath of fresh ear

Illustration of a tin-can phone with one end covered in a wrapper with "The Ear" printed on it, and lightning bolts coming out of it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🍔 Barrel House, an eastern Iowa restaurant chain, will open in Des Moines' East Village mid-year. (Des Moines Register)

🗳 Polk County Supervisor Angela Connolly was reappointed by the five-member board to serve as its chairperson.

  • Robert Brownell was selected as vice chairman, marking the first time a Republican has held a leadership position on the board in more than a decade.

🥫 Beaverdale resident Dale Marks died last week after struggling with health issues and COVID-19. Marks helped collect food and thousands of dollars for charity via an annual Christmas lights display. (KCCI-TV)

🏆 Today's pun maker: Cheryl Benson of Oskaloosa.

5. Breaking down Bachelor Nation

Google search interest in “The Bachelor”, by state
Reproduced from ExpressVPN; Cartogram: Axios Visuals

"The Bachelor" is nearing 20 years on television with last night's debut of former football player Clayton Echard's season.

  • And it turns out Iowans are voracious consumers of television eye candy.

Why it matters: Meh. Maybe it doesn't. But this chart suggests it does to many of you.

By the numbers: Iowa ranks third in the U.S. for the most Google search interest in the ABC reality show, according to ExpressVPN.

  • The most-interested fans are from the Midwest and more rural areas.

🌹 Our thoughts: If we had to pass out roses, they would go to all of you.

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