Legislative leaders and Governor Vilsack had what some participants described as a tense round of private negotiations this (Tuesday) afternoon without coming to any agreement on a state budget. The main areas of disagreement are on teacher salary hikes and a G-O-P plan to cut taxes for elderly Iowans.
Even key education policy issues are undecided, like whether to change the state law that dictates when school may start in the fall. The Iowa Senate has voted to forbid schools from starting before August 25th — no exceptions.
Representative Jodi Tymeson, a Republican from Winterset, says the House soon will take up a bill that deals with the issue. “We’re just going to have an open debate on what the school start date language should be,” Tymeson says. Tymeson supports a hard-and-fast school start date rather than current policy which lets any school district obtain a waiver to start early.
Another education policy matter dealt with changing the way the school day is calculated — so schools could no longer count recess or class trips toward the total number of hours of classroom instruction required by law. The Republican-led House endorsed the concept; the Senate hasn’t gone along with it and Tymeson says Republicans will drop it for this year, at least. “But I will continue to advocate that our students deserve to have a full day of instruction,” Tymeson says.
The change Governor Vilsack has sought in the way schools calculate graduation rates will be endorsed by Republicans, according to Tymeson. And Tymeson says another proposal that asks all Iowa high schools to offer the kind of advanced courses recommended by A-C-T — the college testing agency — is pending, too. “I think it’s a real positive step…for the students to make sure that they are ready for college or ready for the workplace,” Tymeson says.
But that proposal, and many others, are in limbo with the tense stand-off between Republicans and Democrats on the tax and budget issues. Senate Republican Leader Mary Lundby of Marion accused Governor Vilsack of abruptly walking out on negotiations this afternoon. “We sat around and looked at each other. We talked about a few minor issues and he wants us to move and we’re just not there yet. We have some good reasons for not being there yet,” Lundby says. “(The governor) walked out of the room and we’re going to go talk about it.” Lundby then left to meet privately with other Republicans at the statehouse.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says Lundby’s dramatizing the governor’s exit, but Gronstal admits there’s no deal in sight. “I think these meetings are going to continue for quite a while,” Gronstal says.