The Iowa House Monday approved more money for public schools, in a move that may avoid a showdown with the governor over education spending. Schools will get extra money this fall for teacher pay, for job-training for at-risk kids, and for programs aiming to close the achievement gap between white and minority students. But the biggest compromise was approving a four-percent hike in per-pupil spending for 2006. Republican house majority leader Chuck Gipp of Decorah says that was the only way to avoid a veto by the governor.He says the governor let them know he wouldn’t sign anything giving less than four-percent, so to get lawmakers home and avoid returning for a special session, they did it. The House budget includes more money for K-12 schools in both 2005 and 2006. Representative Gipp says republicans are still worried state tax collections won’t rebound fast enough to pay for a four-percent increase, but says they couldn’t interest the governor in those concerns. Gipp says in case of some kind of terrible repeat of 9/11, it could throw the economy “into a tank” and the money wouldn’t be there, and schools would face across-the-board cuts again, but all they can do is be prepared to say “I told you so” if that does happen. But while republican support was reluctant, house democrats were eager to agree to the four percent hike. Des Moines representative Ed Fallon originally wanted lawmakers to repeal some prior tax cuts to give schools a six-percent increase in 2006…but the democrat who wants to be governor jumped aboard the compromise. He says while four-percent isn’t what he’d prefer, it’s a “big leap forward” and contains enough funding to address some of the schools’ problems better than a two-percent increase would have. A four-percent hike in 2006 will give schools an extra 92.7 million dollars in state aid. He says he firmly believes the schools should get six-percent and could if they’d rolled back the tax cuts of some recent years, but adds this is a “commendable increase” for now. House leaders made the additional aid contingent on the governor approving a spending reform that says lawmakers can only spend up to 99 percent of state revenues even during special sessions. They approved a three percent hike for 2006, with an extra one percent if revenues exceed expectations. Late Monday leaders in the Iowa senate said they also can support the increase for schools.
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