Senate Democrats want hike in state aid for public schools
Senate Democrats are proposing a four percent increase in general state aid for K-12 schools for the school year that begins in the fall of 2013. Senator Brian Schoenjahn, a Democrat from Arlington, says schools are struggling in the current budgeting year.
“It’s zero now and the results have been horrendous out there,” Schoenjahn says. “We’ve laid off teaching staff. We’ve laid off aides. We’re at bare bones in most districts.”
Legislators voted last year to provide a two percent increase in general state aid for schools, starting on July 1 of this year. This proposal increases state support of schools in the following year.
A state law requires legislators to set what’s called “allowable growth” for Iowa schools two years in advance. It’s the main source of state support for K-12 public schools. Governor Terry Branstad, a Republican, says the law should be repealed.
“They should because they’ve ignored it so many times,” Branstad says. “Remember, they ignored it the two previous years before I became governor.”
Senator Schoenjahn is a former teacher at Starmont Community Schools. He says school officials need to start planning now for teacher contract negotiations that start next winter and they won’t know how much state aide they’ll be getting in the 2013/2014 academic year if lawmakers fail to act.
“It hamstrings the districts,” Schoenjahn says, “and I don’t think it’s fair to the districts.”
But Branstad says he wants to wait because he’ll be working with legislators this fall and next winter on a new school funding proposal.
“Next year we intend to address the issues involving teacher compensation, length of the school year and all of those are things and those are things that will require resources,” Branstad says. “But we want to make sure the resources are focused on those things that are going to improve student achievement.”
Despite the Republican governor’s sentiments, Senate Democrats plan to act today on a bill that would provide a four percent increase the general level of state support for school for the academic year that begins in the fall of 2013. The bill is scheduled to be considered by a three-member subcommittee at 11:30 and then at one o’clock the Senate Education Committee plans to debate the bill.