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Pink slips for at least 1,500-plus teachers and other school employees

Republican legislators make local school funding the lowest state budget priority in 40 years|DES MOINES: The pressure is on House Republicans to approve an increase in basic state aid to local schools next year. If House Republicans continue to refuse to take action, local schools will be forced to lay off hundreds or even thousands of employees.

“Republicans will set a new low in state support for education with a zero percent increase in basic funding for the first time in 40 years,” said State Senator Steve Sodders of Marshalltown, who has two children in the West Marshall Community School district and who serves on the Senate Education Committee.

“Why turn on schools just when the economy and the state budget are finally beginning to recover? Why undercut local students and local communities by firing hundreds of teachers, increasing class sizes, cutting music and arts programs, increasing property taxes and diminishing educational opportunity for the next generation of Iowans?”

On April 15, schools boards across Iowa must certify their budgets for the coming year. The Iowa Legislature has thus far failed to approve an allowable growth bill. Educators statewide point out that a failure to increase basic state aid to schools could cost at least 1,500 jobs statewide. Earlier this year, a survey of the superintendents at 259 of Iowa’s 358 school districts reported that a zero percent increase in new funding for schools would mean layoffs, more crowded classes and higher property taxes. See http://www.senate.iowa.gov/democrats/superintendent-survey-fewer-teachers-larger-classes-higher-property-taxes/ for detailed survey results.

By April 30, school districts must notify employees who will not be re-hired in the coming school year. A spokesperson for the Iowa School Board Association has said: “We’re going to see layoffs of epic proportions” if basic aid to schools remains flat and if the voluntary state preschool program is deeply cut.

The Iowa Senate has twice approved a two percent increase in basic state aid to schools, legislation that would send roughly $65 million to local schools. The Senate has approved Senate File 167 which calls for a 2 percent increase and has amended House File 184 to also call for a 2 percent increase. The House has yet to take the action necessary to create a conference committee to resolve the differences between the two chambers.

“Republicans are throwing Iowa’s schools under the bus so they can fund a slush fund for the wealthy and for out-of-state corporations,” said Sodders. “It is outrageous, irresponsible and unacceptable.”

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