Iowa Senate endorses boost in general state aid to schools

Earlier this evening the Iowa Senate passed a bill which would increase general state aid to schools by two percent for the academic year which begins in the fall of 2010. The general state aid is distributed on a per student basis, and would rise to $5883 in 2010/2011.  The senate vote was 32-18 — along party lines with Democrats voting yes and Republicans no. 

Again, this is for an academic year that is far down the road.  Legislators have made no decisions yet on how to use the $387 million being forwarded to Iowa in the federal economic stimulus and targeted for education. The governor's budget director said on February 16 that there were restrictions on how the money could be spent and questions on which ongoing programs for which it may be used.  In addition, legislators and the governor had promised K-through-12 public schools in Iowa a general increase in state aid of four percent for the academic year which begins in the fall, but Culver has said the state cannot afford to keep that promise in the current economy.

Below are statements from Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans.

Protecting Educational Opportunity in Tough Times

Statement by Sen. Becky Schmitz,
Senate Education Committee Chair

The deepening national recession is hitting all parts of the Iowa economy, prompting home foreclosures, forcing small and large businesses to lay off employees, and causing middle-class families to tighten family budgets like never before. 

The recession has also caused a dramatic fall in state income. 

More than 30 years as a school social worker have taught me that educational opportunity is the best way to grow Iowa’s middle class.  That is true in tough times as well as in good times.  That’s why the Iowa Senate will vote today to increase state funding for local schools. 

Specifically, we will increase basic state funding for local school districts by 2 percent during the 2010-2011 school year and, additionally, to increase funds for teacher quality, professional development and class-size reduction by 2 percent at the same time.

These increases in funding will go to:
•          Supporting initiatives to increase student achievement,
•          Keeping the best and brightest teachers in our classrooms,
•          Investing in reading and early intervention strategies

We will remain fiscal responsible while maintaining our commitment to top-notch schools across our state.   That means making hard decisions to protect our key priorities while balancing the state budget without raising taxes.

Statement on Passage of FY2011 K-12 Education Allowable Growth
Sen. McKinley: Irresponsible to spend more money for FY2011 when we have not yet fixed
the FY2009 budget and have not commenced serious work on FY2010 budget

DES MOINES, IA – Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) issued the following statement today in response to the Iowa Senate passing two percent allowable growth for K-12 education for FY2011:

“I believe it is irresponsible to spend additional dollars for fiscal year 2011 when we have not yet fixed the fiscal year 2009 budget and have not yet commenced serious work on next year’s budget. These challenging economic times created by irresponsible overspending are leaving Iowa’s economic outlook uncertain at the moment and I think it would be prudent to leave allowable growth at its current levels for now. It is always easier to appropriate additional dollars in the future if it is economically viable rather than force school districts to make difficult and deep cuts after realizing that the state cannot afford the level of spending permitted by the governor and legislators.”

“Had the governor and legislative Democrats not spent nearly a billion dollars during the last two years and driven up hundreds of millions of dollars in self inflicted deficits, it would be more feasible to permit additional allowable growth. Had the governor and legislative Democrats done a better job controlling spending and keeping government living within its means, there would be more money available for priorities like education.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.