Partisan fight over education funding
Democrats in the Iowa Senate want to send Iowa’s K-through-12 public schools $133 million more state tax dollars for the school year that starts July 1. Republicans insist that discussion needs to be tabled until the legislature passes the governor’s education reform plans.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says by the end of January the senate will vote to set the general level of state aid for schools, because districts need to make plans now for the next school year.“Districts need to know really fast so they don’t have to lay people off,” Gronstal says.
Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock says policy decisions should come first. “It makes sense to first address what we need to do within our schools to make those improvements,” Dix says, “and then address the funding that needs to complement it.”
House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says “being bullied” by the governor and other Republicans isn’t helpful. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha is expressing frustration with this topic and with how discussions about tax cuts are progressing at the statehouse.“We’re not dug in, O.K.?” Paulsen told reporters during a news conference on Thursday. “And this is the frustrating part from this week is the Senate Democrats in particular have just dug in to things that they’ve done in the past, and it’s not helpful.”
Paulsen said the $133 million boost in state support of schools that Democrats propose is too much money. Democrats like Senator Gronstal point out it was Republican Governor Terry Branstad who signed the 1995 law that requires legislators to set the level of general aid to schools by the end of February.
“The law, when it was passed, intended that we make K-12 education our highest fiscal priority,” Gronstal says. “…We’re going to abide by the law.”
Legislators, by the way, should have agreed last February upon a level of state aid to schools for the academic year that starts this fall. House Speaker Paulsen says he and other legislators are doing what legislators have done in the past — ignore the law for legitimate reasons.