Democrats in the Iowa Senate have voted to dramatically increase the level of general state aid for K-12 education in the future.

In the current year, Iowa’s public schools saw “status quo” support from the state, meaning no increase over last year. Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, says that’s unprecedented.

“It has never been the case prior that we have done so little to help advance education,” Quirmbach says.

The level of state aid for schools is set to increase by two percent, starting this fall. But this morning Senate Democrats approved a bill that would set aside four percent more in general state aid for schools, starting in the fall of 2013. Quirmbach says that’s $142 million more for K-12 schools.

“That is well within our ability to pay given the likely level of revenue growth over the next two years,” Quirmbach says. “Our economy is recovering.”

Republican senators rejected the idea. Senator Shawn Hamerlinck, a Republican from Dixon, ridiculed the Democrats.

“We hear all the time that, ‘We’re doing this for the kids.’ ‘Our schools are barebones.’ ‘We care about the youth,'” Hammerlinck said.

But Hammerlinck accused Democrats of promising money they may not be able to deliver.

“Right now, it’s nothing more than a sound bite or a soapbox that you stand on, to score political points,” Hammerlinck said.

Republicans in the House do not intend to bring up the Senate Democrats’ proposal for state funding of schools in the 2013/2014 school year. Republican Governor Terry Branstad has asked legislators to repeal the state law that requires lawmakers to set the level of state aid for schools two years in advance, to give administrators time to plan. The current legal deadline for taking that action for the 2013 academic year is this Thursday.