A nearly 100 million dollar chunk of additional cash for public K-through-12 schools is one step closer to reality. The Iowa House on Monday gave final legislative approval to the additional spending for the school year that begins in the fall of 2006. Governor Tom Vilsack’s expected to approve it. But a handfull of democrats in the Iowa House argued schools needed an even bigger increase in state aid. Representative Roger Wendt, a democrat from Sioux City, is a retired teacher and principal. Wendt says schools have suffered through “three very difficult years of inadequate (state) funding” and it’s time to play catch-up. Representative Bruce Hunter, a democrat from Des Moines, says 100 million more just isn’t enough as schools face bigger utility bills and health insurance premiums for staff Hunter says schools are now facing a reality of “doing less with less.” Representative Cindy Winckler, a democrat from Davenport, is a school teacher who says the state has been on notice for the past decade that schools need more money, but lawmakers haven’t followed through. Winckler says “funding education is one of the greatest economic development initiatives” the state could undertake. But republicans hold 51 of the 100 seats in the Iowa House, and they stuck to the plan to provide about 100 million more to public schools. Representative Jodi Tymeson, a republican from Winterset, responded to the democrats’ complaints. Tymeson says while most of the democrats talked about cuts to education, state aid to schools has increased by 350 million dollars over the past seven years despite a decline in the number of students in schools. Tymeson says to commit more to schools would place the entire state budget in a more precarious position. Tymeson says lawmakers wouldn’t be able to consider needs in other areas, like health care, public safety or state worker salaries. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a republican from Sioux City, says it’s “refreshing” to get the education spending issue decided so early in the year. Rants says it shows legislators from the two major political parties can work together and make education the state’s number one priority without a lot of partisan wrangling. Last year, legislators argued about state aid to schools for months before coming to an agreement in the final week of the 2004 legislative session. Only one legislators — Representative Ed Fallon, a democrat from Des Moines who’s running for governor — voted against this year’s education spending compromise. Fallon says it’s not enough money.
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