Republicans in the legislature have agreed on a 2.5% increase in state spending that’s divided among public school districts on a per pupil basis. Governor Reynolds recommended the same amount and it’s expected she’ll approve the bill soon.
Democrats like Senator Jackie Smith of Sioux City say it’s far short of what’s needed. “That lack of state support leaves teachers dealing with large classes, fewer classroom resources and chronic underpay,” Smith said. “…The Republican school funding bill means Iowa public schools will fall farther behind. It means schools can’t hire and retain enough teachers.”
Senator Amy Sinclair of Allerton, the Republican chair of the Senate Education Committee, said the average salary for Iowa educators is about $61,000. “The facts are Iowa’s teacher, individually, makes roughly the same amount of a household income of the children that are being educated by them,” Sinclair said. “That’s not chronic underpayment. That’s not a lack of love. We are valuing our educators.”
Senator Sarah Trone Garriott, a Democrat from Windsor Heights, said the increase won’t come close to meeting the rising costs of utilities and transportation or addressing the competition for teachers.
“This inadequate number means losing teachers to other states and other industries, making our teacher shortage even worse,” Trone Garriot said. “…Let’s not do the least we can do. Let’s do better.”
Sinclair said hundreds of millions of dollars in federal pandemic relief can help schools cover short-term inflationary costs and this 2.5% bump in general state support on top of that is a promise that can be kept.
“Nothing we’re doing here is a cut to education,” Sinclair said, “and the only districts that will see less money this year than last year is districts that have fewer students this year than last year.”
House Republicans approved this spending level last week and Senate Republicans voted for it yesterday. Another House GOP proposal would send schools an additional $19 million to deal with staff shortages, but Senate Republicans have not voted on that plan.