Iowa House GOP approves $33 million increase for Iowa education

The Iowa State House chamber on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The Iowa State House chamber on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — A $33.3 million increase in general fund support for education, including a $17.5 million bump for regent universities, was approved Monday by the House Appropriations Committee.

House Study Bill 248 https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=88&ba=HSB248 calls for $954 million from the general fund and 11,815 full-time equivalent positions for fiscal 2020 for the Department for the Blind, College Student Aid Commission, Department of Education and the Board of Regents. That’s 12 percent of the $7.668 billion general fund budget House Republicans have proposed for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

HSB 248 is $2.4 million less than GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed in her budget, but about $7 million more than the $946,955,971 education budget target set by Senate Republicans.

Bill manager Rep. David Kerr, R-Morning Sun, said he began work on the budget in December and found that Democratic concerns paralleled his GOP colleagues’ priorities in several areas.

“I don’t want to brag, but I feel this is a good budget,” he said.

The $17.5 million increase for the regents includes a new lump sum appropriation of $15.9 million for the three state universities and increases of $1 million for the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, $400,000 for the Iowa School for the Deaf and $167,000 for Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

HSB 248 includes an increase of $17.4 million for the College Student Aid Commission, including an additional $14.8 million for the Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship Program, an increase of $13.3 million for the Department of Education, including $3 million for children’s mental health, and $7 million more in general aid to community colleges.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, liked the increase for community colleges, early childhood education and the mental health appropriation. However, she didn’t like a $15 million cut for Area Education Agencies, suggesting that money be used for mental health for students and teachers in K-12 schools.

Mascher said she would hold out for more. The budget was approved 14-10 on a party-line vote.

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

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