Monday, April 15 is the deadline for Iowa schools to certify their budgets for the next school year, but administrators don’t yet know how much state aid they’ll get.
Governor Terry Branstad has insisted this school funding decision be linked with education reform and this is Branstad’s advice for school administrators: “The bill’s in conference committee. Contact their legislators. Tell them to get it resolved this week and then they’ll know.”
Branstad leaves on a four-day trade mission to China on Friday, another complication as the governor has to sign whatever bill legislators may pass.
“It can all happen quickly,” Branstad says.
Educators say they’ll have to send out pink slips to employees next week, as they don’t know whether lawmakers will approve a two percent increase in general state aid, as Republicans propose, or a four percent increase, as Democrats propose — or something in between. According to the governor’s staff, the school budget plans that are to be certified next Monday can be “flexible” and list different options. Branstad says everything “can be worked out” this week and he’s offering no apologies to schools for the delay in that school funding decision.
“We need the major education reform that we’ve been working on for three years,” Branstad says. “…We’ve worked through this process. This is the year we need to pass major education reform.”
In addition, Branstad is defending his “Healthy Iowa Plan” against critics who say it’s too expensive and doesn’t cover as many Iowans as a plan Democrats drafted. Branstad’s plan was unveiled in bill form Thursday afternoon and it would provide health care coverage to nearly 90,000 Iowans who work, but live below the poverty line.
“We’re just trying to get through some of the hyper-partisanship and some of the unreasonable accusations and personal attacks,” Branstad says. “That is not the way we do business in Iowa. We are problem-solvers. We need to work together and, at the end of the day, I’m hopeful the legislature will recognize that as well.”
Branstad proposes using county property taxes and about 23-million in state taxes to pay the state’s share for his “Healthy Iowa” plan. Using property taxes concerns some of Branstad’s fellow Republicans. Branstad argues that, in the end, his plan will be the one that is implemented.
“I’ve seen a lot of things that they’ve declared dead resurrected and passed before it’s over,” Branstad says.
Democrats say their plan to expand the Medicaid program will cover up to 60,000 more Iowans and costs less than Branstad’s proposal.
Branstad made his comments during this weekly news conference. Find the audio here.