state-capitolThe Republican-led Iowa House has begun debating a bill that would forward nearly $48 million more dollars in general state aid to Iowa’s public school districts for the next academic year.

School advocates say the increase isn’t enough and won’t even cover negotiated salary hikes for teachers. Others complain Republican legislators are making property tax relief a higher priority than kids. Representative Ron Jorgensen, a Republican from Sioux City, said this morning that K-12 public schools would be getting “about half” of the additional state tax revenue that’s available in the coming this year under the GOP’s proposal.

“We are not the federal government. We must live within our means,” Jorgensen said. “We must do the math. If the money is not there, you can’t spend it unless you are willing to cut in other areas in order to pay for it.”

Critics say Iowa’s per pupil spending level ranks 37th among the states. Jorgensen said another study that factored in each state’s cost of living and ranked Iowa 25th.

“I believe in education you could find a study that would pretty well prove whatever point you wanted to make,” Jorgensen said.

And Jorgensen said per pupil spending “does not always equate to higher performance.” Educators warn class sizes will increase and teachers will be laid off because the one-and-three-quarter percent increase in state aid that the GOP proposes won’t be enough to meet school district obligations. During last night’s two-hour-long public hearing, just two people spoke in favor of the GOP proposal and one of the two is an aide to Republican Governor Terry Branstad.