Republicans in the Iowa legislature have taken final action on a plan to increase “per pupil” state spending in Iowa public schools by two-point-three percent next year. It’s an additional $85 million and Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has signalled she’ll sign the bill.
Senator Michael Breitbach, a Republican from Strawberry Point, said this batch of state funding goes along with spending approved last month to address some school budget inequities.
“We have a limited number of new dollars that we’re going to be able to spend this year…$235 million. We’re giving $100 million to K-12,” he said. “To me, that’s a pretty good shot in the arm.”
All the Democrats in the legislature voted against the spending plan. Senator Herman Quirmbach of Ames said the state could “easily” afford to send schools more, “but we look at the budget the Republicans have given us and we see their priorities.”
Senator Jackie Smith, a Democrat from Sioux City, said this level of general state spending on schools won’t help address the shortage of teachers in critical areas.
“This will further add to low wages, or at least not increasing as they should,” Smith said, “and I think we’re going in the wrong direction.”
Representative Cecil Dolecheck, a Republican from Mount Ayr, said it’s a matter of priorities.
“If you live in a large school district, you’re getting a tremendous amount of money in total,” Dolecheck said. “Use that money like the rural school districts do and hire more teachers. Don’t spend it on administrators and other things like that. That’s what the rural districts have had to do to survive.”
One Republican broke ranks and voted against the plan. Representative Jeff Shipley of Fairfield said legislators are failing to address critical topics like a growing number of obese and diabetic students and students with psychiatric disorders.
“Absent a larger discussion of these issues, we can spend as much money as we want on education, but we’re not going to see improving results,” Shipley said.
The state will spend about $3.5 billion on public pre-K-through-12 schools next year. House Republicans and Governor Reynolds had favored a slightly higher general increase in state aid of 2.5%, but Senate Republicans voted for 2.1%. The final deal of 2.3% split the difference.