Two legislative leaders say lawmakers can quickly make a decision on how much general state aid will be forwarded to Iowa’s public schools for the next academic year, but neither is suggesting exactly what the compromise number might be.
By law, legislators should have made this particular school funding decision last year, and House Democratic Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown says school administrators are struggling to make budget decisions.
“Unfortunately, we’ve put them in a horrible position. We have Davenport schools looking at breaking the law so they can go into reserves,” Smith says. “We have 76 percent of the school districts in Iowa raising property taxes which is a regressive tax and one that the legislature is forcing them to rely on.”
Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock says the two parties are “close to the same page” on school funding.
“We should get this resolved as quick as possible,” Dix says. “I do not see any reason why it cannot and just make sure that we put a number in place that schools can count on and know that the dollars will be there.”
Dix and Smith made their comments during a weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television. House Republicans have proposed a two percent boost in general state support of schools. Republican Governor Terry Branstad has proposed a 2.45 percent increase. Democrats in the Iowa Senate have proposes a four percent increase.
A state law requires legislators to set the general level of per pupil spending for Iowa’s K-12 schools a year in advance, but there is no penalty for failing to meet that deadline. There is no movement among legislators to make the decision about state school aid for the academic year that begins in the fall of 2017. The decision legislators are negotiating is about the school year that begins this fall.