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Rep. Steckman: “I voted against a 1.1% increase in funding to schools”

Rep. Sharon Steckman
From Rep. Sharon Steckman of Mason City –

On Monday of this week, we debated late into the night on state supplemental aid for our public schools and one-half million kids. In the end, I voted against a 1.1% increase in funding to schools. This amount would raise property taxes, raise class sizes and lay off teachers.

The proposed 1.1% is the third lowest increase since 1973 and half of what was recommended by the Governor. A recent survey of superintendents found that any funding increase below 2% would force schools to raise class size (71%); lay off teachers (61%); delay textbook purchases (65%) and reduce offerings for kids (58%).

1.1% amounts to about $73 per student which would buy one-half of a textbook. Districts have had eight consecutive years of budget decline, averaging about 1.8% per year. Administrators say they need 3 to 3.5% just to stay above water.

I argued during debate that the issue is not low revenues; it is priorities. Our revenue has increased approximately 4.8% while the increase in aid amounts to only 16% of new revenues. A major concern for me is the large tax breaks that have been awarded to out-of-state companies over the past.

The last six years have seen the lowest investments in public schools in our history. I’m disappointed that the majority party refused to compromise with the Governor and do what is best for our schools. The future of our economy depends on a highly skilled workforce and investing in our public schools is essential to building the workforce we need.

The bill, Senate File 166, now goes to the Governor for his signature.

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