Legislators have approved a “grand compromise” to increase per pupil state spending in public schools by 2.25 percent in the next academic year, but lawmakers from both parties are drawing battle lines on the school funding issue for the fall election.
Things got testy in the House this afternoon. “Education is not a top priority for Republicans,” said Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, sparking shouts of outrage from Republicans.
A few moments later Republican Representative Chip Baltimore of Boone chided Democrats as well as school officials for negotiating pay raises for teachers and administrators.
“The simple fact, ladies and gentleman, is that money doesn’t grow on trees,” Baltimore said.
The school funding deal easily passed the senate with bipartisan support this morning, but the vote in the House this afternoon was along party lines. Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, this morning said Governor Branstad and his fellow Republicans in the House have pushed through too many tax cuts, so school kids “are going to be suffering” with larger class sizes and out-of-date textbooks.
“I’m going to vote for this, but I’m going to hold my nose in doing it and we need to do better in the future,” Quirmbach said.
Republican Senator Mark Chelgren of Ottumwa said Democrats have “held all of the cards” in the senate when it comes to education policy, because Democrats hold a majority of seats in the senate.
“If you do not like how education’s been done for the last six years, you only need to look in the mirror,” Chelgren said.
Senator Julian Garrett, a Republican from Indianola, said he’s concerned legislators are overspending.
“There’s some red flags that I see waving out there,” Garrett says.
The deal was announced Tuesday. Members of the House and Senate have approved the spending plan today and sent it to the governor. Senator Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa who helped negotiate the deal, said students will face “lost learning opportunities.”
“While this is a grand compromise, next year…we need to understand that we’ve kind of made the schools as lean as possible and we’re starting to cut programming,” Bowman said.
The state payment schools will get from the state will increase $145 per pupil as a result of this deal. Schools with declining enrollment, however, will be financially stretched. Those 112 schools will not receive any additional state aid next year.