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DES MOINES — The Iowa House approved a 2.5 percent increase in state aid to K-12 schools Thursday despite claims the additional $179 million was “woefully inadequate.”
In addition, majority Republicans added $19.2 million in one-time funds to help schools with inflationary pressures, House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said.
“We want to try to infuse some one-time dollars into our education system because we know they're facing some things that they maybe didn't plan for,” Grassley said, before House File 2316, formerly House Study Bill 658, was approved 57-39.
Not only was the package inadequate, according to House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, but it was “an insult to schools,” part of the “continued attacks on teachers” by Republicans.
“When we continue to villainize them, they get worn out, they get burned out and they leave the profession. That's not what we need,” she told reporters. “We need to make sure that teachers and kids feel validated, that teachers know that we are here supporting them.”
House Democrats proposed a $300 million increase in the state school aid, double the 2.5 percent Republicans proposed. If Gov. Kim Reynolds can afford to give $300 million in tax relief to those paying corporate income taxes, then the state can afford $300 million more for schools, they said.
House Republicans did not include a corporate income tax reduction in their tax relief plan, though Senate Republicans and Reynolds have included that in their tax cut plans.
The school aid formula provides funding to school districts and Area Education Agencies through a mix of state aid and property taxes. In general, funding is awarded on a per-pupil basis.
The House education funding bill increases the per-pupil expenditure $181, or 2.57 percent, from $7,227 to $7,413, according to an analysis by the Legislative Services Agency.
That’s a $172 million increase from the state general fund and an overall increase of $179 million — from $3.4 billion to $3.6 billion. That’s roughly 44 percent of the $8.1 billion budget proposed by Reynolds.
In addition to state funds, local school districts raise property taxes to meet their expenses. Currently, the state’s share is 88.4 percent and local property taxes cover 11.6 percent.
The 2.5 percent increase the House approved is the same as Reynolds proposed in her budget. Senate Republicans have proposed a 2.25 percent increase.
Grassley said House members are having “positive conversations” with senators on finding a number to agree on.
“We're not that far apart, so I feel pretty confident,” he said.
However, according to statute, the funding level must be enacted — approved by both chambers and signed by the governor — within 30 days of the beginning of the legislative session, which was Thursday.
In addition to offering an amendment to increase school aid by 5 percent — which failed 38-57 — Democrats sought to raise various parts of the funding beyond the GOP proposal and create supplemental funding for student activities and for mental health.
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