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From the Desk of Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer

Last week in the House we took up allowable growth. As you may know, allowable growth is the percentage at which the state’s per-pupil funding for education is allowed to increase.|(From Rep. Linda Upmeyer)

February 14, 2011

Last week in the House we took up allowable growth. As you may know, allowable growth is the percentage at which the state’s per-pupil funding for education is allowed to increase. It is a complicated formula that uses state general fund money along with property tax dollars to fund each student.

Last session, the allowable growth rate was set at 2%, but the State underfunded that new spending authority by $156 million. In addition, nearly $48 million in one-time federal stimulus funds and one-time transfers from other funds were used to replace general fund money. Those moves created a $209 million gap for this year. It is unacceptable for the State to over-promise and under-deliver and leave the property taxpayer holding the bag. Last week we committed ourselves to fully funding our obligations to schools.

In order to fulfill our promise to spend less than we take in, and stop spending one-time money for ongoing expenses, we voted to set allowable growth at 0%. Because we are fully funding the State’s commitment to schools, we are actually spending an extra $216 million on education compared to the current budget. That is an 8.8% increase in State funding.

At a time when most of state government is getting a cut, education is an area where there will be an increase.

Despite what you might hear, I am proud to say that the property taxpayer is held harmless with this year’s school funding. This is an important point to clarify. When the State underfunded education last year, much of that shortfall was put onto the property taxpayer. With the legislation passed last week, the State fully funds its commitment and picks up any amount that would have been pushed onto property taxes in districts with declining enrollment.

The education committee also passed out a measure that will give school districts sorely needed flexibility to maintain their local budgets — Home Rule will be established for school districts. Currently, the state prohibits action at the local level by limiting decisions to only what is permitted in state law.

Passage of Home Rule reverses that and gives districts freedom to make local decisions not expressly prohibited in Iowa Code. This is the same kind of discretion cities and counties enjoy. We trust our locally elected school boards, who are closest to the people they serve, to make decisions on how to best educate our children.

Besides passing education bills, I was also able to spend some time with visitors this week. Rep. Byrnes and I had a great visit from local NIACC building trades program students. I also was able to meet with osteopathic medical students from Des Moines University and the Association of Electric Cooperatives — another great week of visitors.

If you will be visiting the capitol or maybe in town for the upcoming wrestling tournament, please stop by and say hello. You can reach me at or (515) 281-4618.

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