Democrats who control the Iowa Senate pushed through a bill today that would increase state aid to public schools by 4 percent for the 2017-18 academic year.
Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, is chairman of the Iowa Senate Education Committee.
“It is long past due that this body and our colleagues in the House, in cooperation with the governor, reinvest in Iowa’s education,” Quirmbach said. The House and Senate are still at odds over school funding for next year, so it’s unclear what a 4 percent increase would translate to in actual dollars for the 2017-18 school year.
But, Quirmbach calculates that over the last five years, when adjusted for inflation, Iowa’s per-pupil spending has increased by just $6. “Six dollars over five years…an increase of 0.1% — not per year — that’s total, over five years,” Quirmbach said. Quirmbach also cited the results of a survey that Democrats in the legislature sent to school superintendents.
“Over 90-percent of our school superintendents and principals are telling us that without a decent increase (in state aid), class sizes will increase — meaning that individual students, our children and grandchildren, will not get the individual attention that they need and that they deserve,” Quirmbach said.
Senator Amy Sinclair, a Republican from Allerton, said while she supports the effort to address school funding in a timely manner, lawmakers should resolve the dispute over spending for the coming school year first.
“For me, we need to make sure that we have an understanding of what we’re funding for (fiscal year) 2017 before I feel we can appropriately budget for FY 2018 because the one compounds from the other,” Sinclair said.
According to Sinclair, approving state aid to schools for 2018 before setting the funding for 2017 could ultimately hurt taxpayers. “They put us in a position of either overpromising and underfunding or passing those bills back on to property tax payers,” Sinclair said.
A House-Senate conference committee is set to debate school funding for the 2016-17 academic year. Senate Democrats also support a 4 percent increase for that year, while Republicans who control the House favor a 2 percent spending increase.