Linda Upmeyer

Republicans in the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate are preparing to send a one percent increase in per pupil state spending to Iowa’s public schools. Republican Senator Amy Sinclair of Allerton says it amounts to an extra $32 million in general state support for the next academic year.

“Frankly, the signal to schools that we had been sending before was that the budget is not pretty and you should expect zero,” Sinclair says. “I would say that this should tell them very much that we prioritize them and the fact that this will likely be the first bill off the floor of the senate is another indication of just where we rank educating our next generation in the list of priorities.”

The proposal cleared the House Education Committee Wednesday evening and the Senate Education Committee late Thursday afternoon. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake stresses that school budgets weren’t cut last year and won’t be cut this year as legislators soon make state spending reductions.

“Our commitment to K-12 is solid. When it came to budget adjustments each year, we made sure that we were holding harmless education and, in fact, we’ve added new dollars,” Upmeyer said during a news conference. “It’s almost 45 percent of our budget today. It exceeds $3.2 billion dollars annually…We’re really proud of our track record.”

Democrats say Republicans are “short-changing” the state’s public schools. Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says one percent doesn’t keep pace with inflation.

“The superintendents and the school administrators I’ve talked to have said just the increase in costs that they’re having for utilities and transportation, one percent will just get sucked up by that,” Hogg said. “You know, they’ll be looking at staff losses…and this is another year that we’re coming up short on what our schools need.”

There are discussions in the legislature about other education funding proposals. One would provide money to help sprawling rural schools deal with the costs of busing students. The other would extend the statewide sales tax that’s used to pay for school infrastructure. That tax is scheduled to expire in 2029.