Most of the media coverage of the painful funding cuts for the K-12 schools and Iowa universities overlooks and inadequately reports the real reason why the Iowa Legislature does not have the funds to pay for K-12 and higher education: drastic changes to the state’s commercial property taxes that led to lower revenues.
Gov. Terry Branstad recommended and the Iowa Legislature passed a huge tax cut in March 2014 that significantly lowered commercial property taxes but did not allow sufficient revenue for education funding. These tax cuts were promoted as a way to attract businesses and increase their profits. Much of these profits will flow out of our state through corporations that own local chain businesses. Landlords will not pass these tax cuts on to their renters.
Ironically, these commercial tax rollbacks will discourage corporations and the families that run them from moving to Iowa because of the failing schools. If schools and the local economy start to fail, property values will fall. Many people will lose jobs, including teachers. Funding cuts in every K-12 school district will result in the loss of essential school administrative staff, teachers, and programs like sports and music. Class sizes will become too large for effective teaching. The universities will not be able to attract many of the best students if their costs go up and the quality of education goes down. Research and graduate programs will be cut, damaging the reputation of our highly rated universities.
As the budget cuts sweep through our local schools, parents will swarm into the school board meetings and angrily demand that their favorite program not be axed when they could have been helping get more progressive legislators elected who would adequately fund their schools.
Journalists need to clearly and convincingly tell people that our legislature does not value our educational systems and that our elected officials are more interested in serving their own political interests. Iowans need to demand that their legislators adequately fund our K-12 schools and universities. They are undermining and starving our schools and universities by excessively and unnecessarily cutting our state revenues which are essential to maintain a good educational system in Iowa.
• John Macatee, of Iowa City, is a parent of two daughters who attended schools in the Iowa City school district.