CLINTON — Area legislators predict an education reform package and an allowable growth rate of 4 percent will be approved by the end of the legislative session.
Other bills, they say, likely will not be settled when the session wraps up in less than a month.
During the final legislative coffee of the session, which was held at the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce on Saturday morning, Sen. Rita Hart, D-Wheatland, and Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, addressed a number of concerns from their constituents. Many of these concerns, such as education reform and allowable growth, mirrored those raised when legislators met during the first legislative coffee of the session in February.
Education reform and school district funding have been at the forefront of debate since the legislative session started. First, the two legislative bodies have disagreed on the amount of funding to provide school districts. The Senate approved a 4 percent allowable growth rate and the House called for a 2 percent allowable growth. Further compounding that issue is the debate over education reform.
House Republicans on Wednesday made some concessions to their education reform plan, including raising aid to Iowa’s public schools by 2 percent next year as well as a one-time payment equal to 2 percent allowable growth. For the following academic year, House Republicans offered a 4 percent allowable growth.
Wolfe said that despite the apparent differences between the Democratic and Republican plans, they are similar. Rep. Steve Olson, R-DeWitt, was not at the forum to share his perspective on the issues.
“Even though they’re doing it in an odd way the first year, it means they’re acknowledging that 4 percent is the right amount,” Wolfe said. “So that’s a good thing right there. I don’t think it’s a real heavy lift to get them then to say ‘OK, we’ll do the 4 percent the right way. We won’t mess around. We’ll do 4 percent both years.’ Then I assume that the Senate will be willing to agree to many of the things in the House plan.”