By: MacKenzie Dreeszen
True to their word, Iowa lawmakers passed SF 166 on Monday, a bill setting supplemental state aid to schools. The bill was sponsored by Representative Walt Rogers (R, Cedar Falls) and will increase school funding by 1.1%, for a total of $40 million in extra dollars.
In his opening remarks, Representative Rogers questioned the efficacy of drastic increases in school budgets on the quality of education.
“We are not against schools. But we question the process by which they are funded. Does it always require more money to fix the problem? I do not believe that it does. Money is just one of many tools that we have available in our toolbox.”
Representative Tom Moore (R, Griswold), shared his experience as a teacher as evidence that a good education takes more than just dollars.
“My salary did not affect the way that I taught. Iowans have a strong sense of professionalism and resilience.”
Rogers said that right now, education comprises 42% of the state budget, or $3.2 billion a year. He said that the legislature has five goals this session: To set supplemental aid within 30 days of receiving the Governor’s budget, to get out of the way and let teachers do their job, to reform collective bargaining, to address issues found in inner city schools, and to develop an assessment that works for Iowa students and teachers.
House Democrats proposed four amendments to the bill, none of which were passed. These included changing the increase in funding to 2%, increasing funding by 4%, determining supplemental aid a full year in advance, and a default 4% increase if supplement aid is not set within 30 days of the Governor’s budget.
Representative Rogers feels that the proposed 1.1% increase in school aid is responsible, and he reminded the body of the consequences that schools might face if education spending is not controlled.
“I’ve had superintendents and presidents of community colleges tell me that they are still digging their way out of the whole left by the 10% cut that we had to make seven years ago as a result of overspending. We do not want to do that again.”
Representative Ken Rizer (R, Marion) agreed with the importance of setting a responsible budget.
“Unless we control costs, we will continue to have larger class sizes.”
While many other programs in Iowa are being cut this year, education is one of the only items to see an increase in funds.
“Anything more than a $40 million increase would push other services aside. We still need to fund Medicaid and state troopers. This is a tough year,” said Representative Dave Heaton (R, Mount Pleasant).
Representative Megan Jones (R, Sioux Rapids) said that contrary to what many are saying about Republicans making cuts education budgets, this bill actually increases the funds available for Iowa schools.
“This is not a cut. It’s an increase. Iowa doesn’t base our budget off that of our neighbors. Just like our families, we set our budgets based on what we have, not on those around us.”
Representative Rogers closed with optimistic remarks for this bill.
“Since being in the majority in the Iowa House, Republicans have never decreased funding to education. We have increased education funds by $740 million in seven years, unlike many other programs. The number of teachers in Iowa has increased every year since Republicans gained the majority. Iowa has risen from 35th to 27th in national education rankings. But we still have to spend based on what we have, not estimates.”
The bill passed 55-40, with 5 members absent.