Several leading education organizations in the state have banded together to request a 6-percent increase over the next two years in funding for schools. Veronica Stalker is president of the School Administrators of Iowa. She says it’s the education community’s responsibility to point out the crisis in the schools. John Heironymus, president of the Iowa State Education Association, says in the past three years state aid to schools has grown barely one-percent…which he says has forced local districts to make tough choices. He cites a recent survey of superintendents that found three in five districts have increased classroom sizes, half have fewer classroom aides, and two in three have fewer teaching materials and supplies. The education groups paid for a survey of Iowa residents back in October.He says a poll of 600 voters found 60-percent would agree to higher taxes if that money went to schools. Susan McDermott is president of the Iowa Association of School Boards, and says it may be time to rethink tax cuts that have cut by 600-million dollars a year the money going into state coffers to pay for running the schools. McDermott says lawmakers have gone too far in their zeal to lower taxes, and she doesn’t think citizens want Iowa’s schools to lose ground. The education groups say if the legislature won’t approve a tax hike, they could tap into the state’s road fund. But State representative Bill Dix, chair of the house appropriations committee says he can’t support tapping the state’s road fund, even for schools. He says talking with people around the state he finds many concerned that investment is inadequate in roads now, so taking money from the road fund for anything would be “ill-advised.” Dix, a republican from Shell Rock, says the state will be doing well to just maintain the current level of funding for schools, and he says raising taxes is a bad idea. He says with the economy just showing signs of improving, a tax increase isn’t what we want to do, because the economy should grow now and that’ll improve the tax base in the future. He says anyone looking at a tax increase now must think money grows on trees. Representative Dix says while he understands educators’ concerns, everyone will have to spend existing money more wisely.
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