From Linda Upmeyer –
This week’s weather has really kept us on our toes. Bright and sunny one day, rain another, and winter storms in various parts of the state. Spring in Iowa continues to keep us guessing. It’s been great to see so many folks from home visiting the Capitol over spring break or coming in for meetings. Thanks to those who have stopped by. I have listened and learned about many topics in our discussions.
While the weather is unpredictable, one thing is for certain, and that’s that Iowans value a quality education and good K-12 schools for their kids. I am happy to report that education funding for next school year has been determined.
When the legislative session first began, House Republicans made a commitment to set school funding as quickly and responsibly as possible. When we met with our local superintendents from across the state, we consistently heard that getting funding settled early was more of a priority than the increase. House Republicans heard loud and clear that schools need to plan their budgets for next school year and they also need to have funding that they can count on.
This week, we followed through on that commitment to set funding early, as a bipartisan conference committee struck an agreement to increase next year’s school funding by 2.25%. While 2.25% may not sound like a big number, this represents $153 million worth of new funding for K-12 schools. Based on current revenue figures, K-12 education will be receiving 87% of all new state spending this year. That’s a significant investment in our local schools. Other priorities like Medicaid and public safety remain as key topics as the remainder of the state budget is outlined.
All session long, I believed that we would be able to reach an agreement on education funding that was closer to the Governor’s proposed increase of 2.45%. House Republicans had the additional resources necessary in our preliminary budget targets and were ready to achieve the Governor’s number.
In my newsletter last week, I talked about how Senate Democrat’s budget targets are over the state’s expenditure limitation. For that reason, they were unable to provide any additional resources above 2.25%. It’s unfortunate because I believe House Republicans would’ve been willing to do so. In the end, we determined that getting this new money to schools as quickly as possible was the priority.
A reliable level of funding is a key principle for House Republicans. During the Chet Culver era, legislative Democrats had a bad habit of overpromising and under delivering on their commitments. It was undependable spending practices that led to across-the-board cuts and underfunding education which pulled the rug out from under K-12 schools in the middle of the school year. This forced property taxpayers to pick up the tab when the state didn’t follow through on its promises.
Since Republicans have held the majority in the Iowa House over the last six years, ongoing education spending has increased by $660 million. House Republicans have also provided additional resources totaling $106 million for other purposes including the final phase of the Teacher Leadership program. In addition, the number of teachers in Iowa classrooms has grown steadily each year, totaling 809 since Republicans have been in the majority. Most importantly, we’ve been able to follow through on our commitments. Each year that we have been in the majority, we’ve funded a responsible increase that schools can depend on.
I’m proud of the support that we’ve been able to provide to Iowa’s schools and I believe Iowans should be as well.