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Iowa Legislature sets 2.5% school funding increase
Republicans say that is affordable and sustainable, Democrats had called for a 5 percent increase
DES MOINES — Public K-12 schools in Iowa are in line for a 2.5 percent increase in state funding under a proposal that cleared the Iowa Legislature on Monday and is on its way to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk.
The proposal means roughly $172 million in new general state funding for the next K-12 school year, on top of the roughly $3.4 billion allocated for the current school year.
The funding proposal was proposed and passed by statehouse Republicans, who have majorities in both chambers.
Senate Republicans had pitched a 2.25 percent increase, but they came up and matched the 2.5 percent increase proposed by House Republicans and Reynolds.
Democrats proposed a 5 percent increase, which would have equated to almost $300 million in new funding, according to their staff analysis.
Democrats also proposed myriad additions to the K-12 public education funding proposal, including extra money for mental health care services and staff in schools, funding to reduce class sizes and retain and attract teachers, funding for expanding four- and five-year-old preschool, and allowing schools to use general funds to expand preschool.
Each proposal was rejected by majority Republicans.
A 2.5 percent increase “will not be close to where we need to be. Not even close,” said Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott, a Democrat from Windsor Heights.
“Let’s not do the least we can do. Let’s do better.”
Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association, the state’s largest public educators union, said the state funding proposal will make it difficult for schools to retain and hire teachers and staff and reduce class sizes.
“Setting (state funding) at 2.5 percent does not set Iowa’s public schools up for success,” Beranek said in a news release.
Sen. Amy Sinclair, a Republican from Allerton who chairs the Senate Education Committee, defended the proposal against Democrats’ charges that it is insufficient and will create financial stress on Iowa’s public schools.
Sinclair said Republicans’ proposal is reliable and sustainable within the state’s budget.
“We can argue whether this is sufficient or not sufficient,” Sinclair said. “Nothing we’re doing here cuts education. … We keep the promises we make, and will continue to do so.”
Over the first 38 years under Iowa’s current funding formula, general state funding to K-12 public schools increased by an annual average of 5 percent, according to data from the state’s nonpartisan fiscal analysis agency. Since 2011, when Republicans regained at least a portion of control over the lawmaking process, that average annual K-12 funding increase has been 1.9 percent.
Legislative Republicans’ proposal, House File 2316, now goes to Reynolds’ desk for her approval.
In an emailed statement, Reynolds said she is “encouraged” by the proposal’s passage and said her administration makes education a “top priority.”
“But we can’t rely on funding as the sole mechanism to improve our educational system,” Reynolds said. “That is why I continue to focus on STEM, work-based learning and registered apprenticeship programs to enhance the educational experiences for our children.”
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