I recently asked Principal Dan Boyd what the meager Republican school funding proposal would mean for Clinton Community School District students.
In his return email, he mentioned that class sizes will increase to the mid-30s. I appreciated Principal Boyd’s response and the similar responses from educators and school board members across the state.
Many also asked me a question: How did school funding get to be so partisan?
I wish I knew. Most Iowans value our state’s leadership in education and want to maintain it. Great local schools are valuable assets to our communities.
Based on past results, Iowans are right to believe that investing in the next generation is our path to a stronger economy and a brighter future.
However, things have changed at the Iowa Legislature. At the Statehouse, support for our local schools now breaks down on party lines.
Here’s where we are today:
In January, a year late and more than a few dollars short, House Republicans finally approved a 1.25 percent increase in school funding, one of the smallest increases on record.
The problem with 1.25 percent is that it won’t even cover the increase in local school costs, let alone reverse the effects of several lean years.
The Senate first addressed this issue last year with a vote for 6 percent. We tried again this year with a compromise at 4 percent.
This week, Democratic negotiators offered to “split the difference” and proposed 2.625 percent.
That’s right at the middle of the most recent positions of the House and Senate. Thanks to a 6 percent growth in state revenues and more than $400 million in surplus funds, it is affordable.
We must settle this issue soon. Local schools boards are being forced to approve budgets mandating more crowded classrooms, fewer course offerings, fewer extracurricular activities, and higher property taxes.
Let’s not make local school funding a bargaining chip.
Let’s set partisan differences aside and compromise.
Please encourage the House Republicans who represent you to compromise. Let’s take a step towards restoring the broad support our schools used to have.
Sen. Herman Quirmbach,
Sen. Herman Quirmbach is chairman of the Senate Education Committee.