Republicans in the legislature are proposing a $40 million dollar increase in general state spending on public schools for the coming academic year. It’s about half of what Republican Governor Terry Branstad recommended.
Republican Representative Walt Rogers of Cedar Falls says estimates indicate the state will collect about $200 million more in taxes during the next budgeting year.
“We just felt that $40 million of the new revenue was the appropriate amount of money that we, in good conscience, could give to K-12 education,” Rogers says.
Rogers says a good share of the extra tax dollars coming into state coffers will be used to pay growing Medicaid costs. The GOP’s spending increase for schools would amount to a roughly one percent increase in state tax dollars for public school districts. Brad Hudson, a lobbyist for the Iowa State Education Association, says schools need an increase four times as large, “to make sure the kids of Iowa get a quality education.”
Hudson says the 54 percent of Iowa school districts that have been experiencing declining enrollment need more support from the state.
“Districts with declining enrollment are going to have to reduce offerings, increase class sizes, not update textbooks or technology,” Hudson says. “We think this is a travesty.”
Rogers says Republicans are considering more flexibility in how state funds may be spent in schools, plus there could be a plan to address the “inequity” of lower “per pupil” spending in the state’s property-poor districts.
“We’re also, obviously, looking at collective bargaining discussions this year,” Rogers says.
And Rogers says that could reduce labor costs for districts.
The GOP plan would increase state tax dollar support of schools by $74 per student. Committees in both the House and Senate considered the proposal Monday. Democrats accused Republicans of keeping the plan secret this weekend so the public would not be able to weigh in before the move is ratified by the legislature later this week.