Democrats have offered to “split the difference” with Republicans to end the impasse over state funding for public schools, but Republicans have rejected the move.
In January, Republicans proposed a one-and-a-quarter percent increase in general state aid to public school districts, while Democrats had favored a four percent boost. The ten legislators assigned to resolve the impasse met Wednesday afternoon and Senator Herman Quirmbach of Ames made the Democrats’ formal offer of a two-and-five-eighths percent increase, which would be right in the middle.
“Schools now need the final answer,” Quirmbach said. “They need to certify their budgets by April 15.”
Republican Representative Chuck Soderberg of Le Mars questioned whether the state can afford that much new spending on schools.
“We’ve got a difficult task in front of us and that is balancing a budget,” Soderberg said.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs said no one in the legislature can’t just say: “My way or the highway,” since Democrats control the senate and Republicans control the House.
“This proposal splits the difference between the House and Senate. It won’t make the rest of the budget easy, but it also won’t make the rest of the budget impossible,” Gronstal said. “…It really is time for us to tell districts how much they’re going to get in their budget. I think this is a sincere, legitimate effort at compromise.”
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, said one-and-a-quarter percent increase for schools is “as far as” Republicans will go.
“We’ve considered all these numbers,” Paulsen told reporters after yesterday’s meeting. “We considered all these numbers at the beginning of the session and we came back with what we thought was a difficult amount of money to figure out how to make this commitment, but one with which would could still carry through on our promise.”
By state law, legislators are more than a year beyond the deadline for making this decision about state spending on schools for the 2015-2016 academic year.