For the second time this week a top Iowa Democrat has cautioned against panic in the state’s education establishment.
On Monday, Governor Culver said there was “no reason” to believe the Democratically-led legislature wouldn’t provide schools with at least $347 million in additional state aid.
Culver said he wanted to assure schools he and other state policymakers were hearing their budget concerns “loudly and clearly.” Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs, meanwhile, is sending a message back to schools.
“I think there’s a number of school districts out there in the state of Iowa that were putting out doomsday-scenario budgets,” Gronstal said late this morning. “…The attempt of the governor on Monday was an attempt to let school districts know that a number of the budgets they’re talking about are unrealistic because the legisalture and the governor are committed to approximately $350 million in (additional) resources.”
Gronstal said a couple of months ago school officials may not have been expecting that much additional state assistance, but it’s now the reality and he suggested it’s time for school officials to dial down their rhetoric.
“Local school districts…are putting out kind of doomsday budgets to scare people and, you know, we understand that game,” Gronstal said. “It’s about trying to convince us that they need resources and we’re trying to be responsive.”
In January Governor Culver recommended legislators follow through on a promised two-percent increase in general state aid for schools. Culver also proposed taking $100 million out of the state’s cash reserve to help schools fill budget holes. House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, said legislators will provide at least that amount of money, but they won’t dip into savings for the extra $100 million for K-through-12 schools.
“The cash reserve fund should really be spent on one-time allocations,” Murphy said. Legislators will use general state tax money instead, since Murphy said the money is financing the “on-going operations” of schools rather than one-time expenses.