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Rep. Steckman unhappy with school funding and Upmeyer’s denying use of visual aids during debate

Sharon Steckman

DES MOINES – Iowa Representative Sharon Steckman sounded off today about what she calls inadequate school funding and a top Republican legislator denying her the use of visual aids during debate and possibly infringing on her First Amendment rights.

Mrs. Steckman’s statement:

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.

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%).

This increase 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 about low revenues; it’s about priorities. Our revenue has increased approximately 4.8% while the increase in aid amounts to only 16% of those new revenues. A major concern for me is the large tax breaks that have been awarded to out-of-state companies during recent years, while we 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.

As a sidebar, I would like to note that we spent an hour before debate began on school funding, discussing whether or not it would be permissible to show visual aids during debate. I have frequently used charts, such as the one shown below, to illustrate a point. A new rule forbidding the use of such charts during debate was added to House rules. I checked all forty-nine other states and not one has such a rule. It is a truism that a picture is worth a thousand words!

Earlier this week, Rep. Steckman said via social media she had been curtailed in her presentations in the Capitol.

Rep. Linda Upmeyer

“Speaker (Linda) Upmeyer has censored visual aids on the House floor. These are images that can be used on social media to help educate people about what she does not want them to see.”

Earlier, she said there was a debate that was launched about “a new rule that says anyone wanting to use a visual aid in debate must first get approval of the Speaker of the House….not one other State has this rule…smacks of 1st amendment rights!”

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