Government

Democrats attack Reynolds on education funding

GOP responds that spending has increased under its watch

Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price speaks in January in Hiawatha. He was in Iowa City on Tuesday, a stop on “Reynolds Record: Education Cuts Tour,” saying more money would be available to K-12 education in Iowa if the state ended “wasteful corporate giveaways.” (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price speaks in January in Hiawatha. He was in Iowa City on Tuesday, a stop on “Reynolds Record: Education Cuts Tour,” saying more money would be available to K-12 education in Iowa if the state ended “wasteful corporate giveaways.” (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Iowa schools are at a tipping point and can’t afford another four years of Gov. Kim Reynolds, according to Democrats supporting her opponent, Fred Hubbell.

“I think we have cut through the fat, we have cut through the muscle and now we are cutting through the bone,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said at an Iowa City campaign event Tuesday.

His answer to increased funding is to end “wasteful corporate giveaways,” such as the tax credit incentives for Apple that could cost the state $20 million if fully utilized.

“No matter how you slice it, schools are not getting enough,” Price told about two dozen people at the Iowa City Public Library.

According to the Iowa Department of Management, the K-12 school aid formula for the current year is $3.2 billion — or 43 percent of the state’s $7.47 billion general fund budget.

Price acknowledged those numbers have gone up, but not fast enough.

“It is a practical cut to education when they are not funding it at the rate schools need to keep going,” Price said. “You can’t say they are not cutting education when programs are being cut because they don’t have the money to fund it, when they’re not filling positions, when programs, like music and arts programs, are being cut because they don’t have the money.”

If school funding doesn’t keep up with inflation, Price said, “at some point you’re going to run out of money. That’s what’s happening.”

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That’s “creative math,” according to Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann.

Kaufmann, who has spent three decades as a classroom teacher, pointed out that since Republicans took control of the governor’s office in 2011, state education funding has increased $765 million. That’s more than all but three states, according to a national survey.

The Iowa Legislature also appropriated $11 million for school transportation in response to requests from schools and reduced the disparities in per-pupil funding.

Kaufmann said the last time education funding was cut in Iowa came when Democrats controlled the governor’s office and both chambers of the Legislature.

Hubbell, he said, was a part of that administration.

“They were midyear cuts. The worst kind,” he said. “I wouldn’t brag about that.”

Despite that, recent Iowa City High graduate Theo Prineas said Reynolds and Republicans “insist education is a problem you cannot fix by throwing money at it. But really, this is exactly what we can do.”

The quality of education can’t be measured simply by the funding, Reynolds said while in Hiawatha on Monday.

The smaller increases in state aid to K-12 schools reflected revenue collection over the past two years. This year, lawmakers increased the state aid formula by 1 percent. That’s $32 million, or roughly $67 per student.

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“We can’t spend more than we take in,” Reynolds said. “And don’t forget that we didn’t cut education, K-12.”

Lawmakers made midyear budget cuts, but held harmless education, Medicaid and the property tax backfill to local governments.

Price argued that there is no way Republicans can say there is too much money going into education. Instead, he said, the state needs to “reprioritize our budget and look at our budget in a different way that puts people first.”

Putting people first is a recurrent themes of Hubbell’s campaign. He wants to eliminate the “wasteful corporate giveaways” so there are resources for schools and other priorities.

Reynolds is optimistic there will be more resources for education next year. With a month to go before the books are closed on fiscal 2018, “revenues are looking good ... we’re on pace to meet our projections and that’s appositive thing.”

Her administration projects an estimated $230 million to $250 million annually for new spending.

The Revenue Estimating Conference in March forecast $7.734 billion net receipts — a 6.4 percent increase for the current fiscal year and a 3.9 percent increase next year.

In addition to an increase in state aid, Reynolds said, there also will be funding for Future Ready Iowa, the initiative lawmakers unanimously approved to build Iowa’s talent pipeline by, among other things, making sure that 70 percent of the state’s workforce has education or training beyond high school by 2025, she said.

“We’ll have significant funding in that to help Iowans get the skills they need to fill these careers,” Reynolds said, a reference to the 66,000 jobs open across Iowa.

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“There’s tremendous opportunity there,” she said about helping people, regardless of where they are in their lives, to get the training and skills needed to get jobs or better jobs. “I’m willing to invest in them, to help them get the skills and then provide them that safety net they need and match them with employers.”

That’s a win-win because it improves the standard of living for those people, reduces the need for Medicaid and frees up money to meet the state’s priorities, Reynolds said.

Price will take the “Reynolds Record: Education Cuts Tour” to Cedar Falls and Mason City on Wednesday. He’ll be at the Purple Pen Room, Maucker Union, at 1 p.m. and the Mason City Public Library at 4 p.m.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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