GOP preschool plans would cut Iowa spending by $25 million to $35 million, state report says
Plans by Gov. Terry Branstad and Iowa House Republicans to replace Iowa’s universal preschool program with a scholarship program for four-year-olds would reduce state spending in the first year by about $25 million to $35 million, depending on the option chosen, according to a report by the nonpartisan Iowa Legislative Services Agency.
The report assumes it would cost $69.9 million to continue the universal preschool program in the 2012 budget year, starting July 1, 2011, and $71.1 million in the 2013 budget year. Iowa House Republicans would instead spend $33.6 million on the scholarship program, while Branstad, also a Republican, proposes a $43.6 million preschool program. That would result in first-year savings of either $36.3 million or $26.3 million.
However, the establishment of the preschool scholarship program would require additional administrative costs of about $900,000 annually for the Iowa Department of Education, including the hiring of two additional employees, the report said. That would bring the total spending reduction to about $25.4 million or $35.4 million.
The preschool scholarship program envisions that a family would be required to pay some of the cost and that state aid would be linked to a family’s income.
Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, criticized the Republicans’ proposals in response to the report, saying the GOP-sponsored plans would be bad for children and too costly to administer. House Republicans said Olson’s comments were misguided, pointing out that the report didn’t evaluate the quality of the education that would be offered and that overall state spending would be reduced.