Iowa House Approves Education Funding Bill

Funding Maintains Tuition Freeze at Iowa, Iowa State, and Northern Iowa

The House chamber at the State Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, January 15, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
The House chamber at the State Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, January 15, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

DES MOINES – In-state public university students will get a tuition freeze this fall under legislation passed by the Iowa House late Tuesday night.

The measure also scoops roughly $4.4 million from the University of Iowa’s appropriation, giving the Iowa City school a 2 percent budget increase while Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa each receive 4 percent.

“Why are we taking money from the University of Iowa when there’s enough money to support all three,” said Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, during a floor debate which began about 7:15 p.m. and didn’t end until after 10:15 p.m.

House Republicans argued the University of Iowa has healthy enough reserves bolstered by the way state funding formula has worked for the last decade.

“U of I has been able to amass a tremendous reserve,” said Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, R-Mount Ayr, who said it was within the university’s ability to take the cut and still offer the tuition freeze.

Overall, the bill appropriates $984.1 million for the Department for the Blind, the College Student Aid Commission, the Department of Education, Community Colleges, Vocational Rehabilitation, Iowa Public Television, and the Board of Regents. It passed on a largely party-line vote of 52-45.

The majority Republicans shot down several attempts by Democrats to amend the bill to increase money for the University of Iowa, lock in additional dollars for elementary education and insert anti-bullying language in the bill.

“I don’t think there has been an amendment tonight that has been ruled ‘not germane,’” said Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, expressing her frustration with the floor rulings that knocked out Democratic amendments without floor discussion. “I guess some don’t want to debate.”

Rep. Patti Ruff, D-McGregor, and Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, tried to add anti-bullying language similar to what was offered by Gov. Terry Branstad early this session but has been stuck in committee in the House.

“We owe this issue great attention,” Hall said. “I’m glad it was brought up because we haven’t had the chance to discuss it on the floor of the House yet.”

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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