Linda Upmeyer

The top Republican in the legislature hopes to cut some of the “strings” attached to the state tax dollars that are used to operate Iowa’s public schools.

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake says giving school boards as much “local control” as possible is the goal.

“I understand that it’s not as simple as it sounds, but finding a path to create some flexibility for schools — I think that will be helpful,” she says.

Here’s one example: Upmeyer wants to let districts buy textbooks with any left-over money in a school’s professional development budget.

“School boards can make those decisions,” Upmeyer says.

The majority of state tax money that’s forwarded to Iowa’s K-through-12 public schools is distributed on a per-student basis and is used for general purposes. Some state tax dollars, though, are earmarked for specific programs. Governor Branstad’s recent “teacher leadership” program earmarks money to boost pay for teachers who become mentors and increase salaries for beginning teachers.

“We supported that and brought that through the legislature,” Upmeyer says. “I think we still want to see how that’s going to go and review the data on that, but there’s many, many arenas where we can get out of the way.”

Upmeyer made her comments during an interview with Radio Iowa. The 2017 legislative session starts on Monday.