Guest Columnist

Education funding is a priority in Iowa

When you hear someone tell you that Republicans are cutting education spending, they're not telling the truth

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature, Tuesd
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Our education system is the foundation of our state. Each of us believe that, which is why each of us has made education funding a priority.

Need proof? There’s plenty of it. Since 2011, we have invested nearly $1 billion more in education. We’re at a point now where education funding represents 54 percent of our state budget, with our preK-12 programs getting 80 percent of that amount. And when you factor in state, local and federal spending, it comes out to roughly $14,000 per student, per year.

Over the last few years, we’ve also spent millions more for transportation, making sure there is equity for those districts that need more busing. And two years ago, we extended the SAVE program, which will provide an additional $26.2 billion for school infrastructure through 2051.

But raw numbers don’t tell the whole story. We’ve also been prudent in our education spending and budgeting so that when times get tough (when a pandemic sweeps the world, for instance), that the funding still is there.

That hasn’t always been the case. A decade ago, when Democrats controlled the governor’s office, the House, and the Senate, they promised big increases in education spending. But they didn’t plan for a downturn, so those promises were broken. In 2008, they actually cut education spending by 1.5 percent.

And then it got worse. In 2009, Democrats cut education funding by 10 percent. Overnight, they pulled the rug right out from under our kids and our teachers.

We haven’t done that. And we won’t do that. Even through a downturn in the ag economy and a global pandemic, we raised education spending to record levels. No cuts, no broken promises. That has been our pledge. And it will continue to be.

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And here’s another promise: When it comes to education, we’re not just going to focus on the money. We’re going to focus on the education part. We’re going to make sure that our children get the foundation they need. We’re going to ensure that our students graduate, and that when they do they’re ready to take the next step — whether that’s college, an apprenticeship or a good-paying job. Because that’s what matters. That’s the point.

So when you hear someone tell you that Republicans are cutting education spending, know this: they’re not telling the truth.

This year, we will come together to once again make sure that Iowa’s public school system is well funded and strong. If we do that, if we work together instead of spreading misinformation, then we can ensure a great future for our kids.

Kim Reynolds is governor of Iowa, Pat Grassley is speaker of the Iowa House and Jack Whitver is Senate majority leader.

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