Republicans in the Iowa House have voted to give Iowa’s K-through-12 public schools a four percent increase in general state aid for the school year that begins in August, 2007. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says that’s reasonable. Rants says lawmakers have to balance the state budget, and other parts of that budget will need increases, too. Rants points out that Governor Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, proposed a four-percent general increase in state spending on Iowa’s K-through-12 schools.

Representative Jodi Tymeson, a Republican from Winterset, says since state tax revenues are only predicted to grow by three percent in the coming year, giving schools a four percent increase in general state spending shows education is the legislature’s top priority. That four percent increase equals 103-million dollars and translates into a two-hundred-dollar increase in per pupil spending.

But Democrats argue schools needed a six percent increase. Representative Roger Wendt, a Democrat from Sioux City, is a retired school administrator who says Iowa is falling behind most other states when it comes to school spending. Wendt says Iowa has dropped from 17th among the states in per pupil spending to 36th. “Now is the time to focus on providing more for our schools and our children,” Wendt says. “We want our children, we want our grandchildren, we want all of Iowa’s students to have an opportunity to succeed.”

Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, says schools are starved for money. “Teachers across the state are working hard to meet the needs of every child in their classes, but their efforts are strangled by lack of resources,” Wessel-Kroeschell says. Last (Wednesday) night’s House vote to endorse a four rather than six percent increase in general state school spending was along party lines. Senate Democrats propose a six percent increase, and Republican leaders predict some Republican Senators will endorse that spending level.