Democrats in the Iowa Senate have voted to provide Iowa’s public K-12 schools with a four percent increase in general state support for the school year that starts this fall. Senator Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa, says without that extra level of spending, schools will have to make “tough decisions” and cut both staff and programs.
“I don’t want our kids…the kids of Iowa, to have any more lost opportunities,” Bowman said.
Republicans like Senator Jake Chapman of Adel say Democrats are promising more money than is available in the state budget.
“The question has to be answered,” Chapman said. “Where do you make the cuts? Where do you raise the revenue?”
Senate Democrats have now voted to forward about twice as much money as House Republicans want to spend on schools. Senator Wally Horn, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids who is a retired school teacher, says the state isn’t spending enough money on schools and student performance shows it.
“We used to be number one in the nation,” Horn says. “Now we’re almost in the bottom 25 of almost every category you can go.”
Senator Amy Sinclair, a Republican from Allerton, shot back at the idea Republicans who contend a four percent increase is too much want to short-change schools.
“It’s patently absurd to suggest that I or any of my colleagues don’t care about education because we’re concerned about the numbers for this year and for future years,” Sinclair says.
Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, says the state would have much more tax money to spend if legislators would “stop the tax giveaways to large, out of state corporations.”
“Our priorities are messed up here. They are wrong,” Bolkcom says. “We are putting the interests of these very large special interests in this tax code that is rigged against our kids.”
Senator Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, says he’s “very offended” by Bolkcom’s criticism of the commercial property tax cut legislators passed in 2013
“Oh, ‘the ‘big, bad corporate people,'” Feenstra says. “..How about the little guy on the corner that’s trying to sell a shirt or whatever it might be? They truly appreciate the reduction in commercial property tax.”
The senate passed four bills today dealing with school financing issues. One bill would send schools four percent more general state aid for the next academic year. A second measure would increase state support in the following year by another four year percent. The other two bills would plug state tax money into school budgets, so local property taxes for schools won’t go up in each of those years.