By Brian Moore
Special to the Herald
---- — Tuesday marks the 100th and last day of this scheduled session.
After Tuesday, clerks will be sent home and legislators driving and living expenses will no longer be paid by the state. That usually means remaining legislation and Fiscal Year 2015 budget bills will move rather quickly. Most of the work in the House has been completed but several remain to be worked in the Senate.
If a bill is in Conference committee, that means both chambers could not agree and special committees, made up of members from both chambers, are assigned to work out an agreement. We are finally feeling like the end of this session is near.
Last Tuesday afternoon and evening, we had a lengthy debate on the education budget, SF2347, on the House floor. There was an amendment brought up, H-8273, establishing 6 percent state aid (formerly allowable growth) for the Fiscal Year 2016 school year.
Three House Republicans and I voted along with 46 House Democrats in favor of this amendment but it failed to reach a majority (51 votes). Even though I feel uncomfortable with the lack of certainty regarding our future revenues, I thought it was best for us to discuss setting FY16 state aid for our school districts.
The biggest piece of the bill is the first of three total installments for the Teacher Leadership Compensation (TLC) system that was part of 2013’s education reform initiative. Fifty million dollars were appropriated to the first round of grantees, with $50 million to follow each of the next two years.
In addition to this education reform funding, the bill also provides funding for pilots for English Language Learning initiatives, Iowa Learning Online’s courses available for districts to use, funding for administrator mentoring and coaching which is necessary for the success of the TLC system, and funding for AEAs to support the TLC system.
And finally, it provided another important part of the early literacy initiative in 2012’s education reform bill by providing $1.9 million requested to provide districts with an early warning literacy assessment necessary to identify students struggling with literacy before grade 4.
Higher education received several bumps in funding. Community colleges once again saw a significant increase of more than 4 percent, with an $8 million increase. Private school students will benefit from a nearly 4 percent increase, $1.4 million, to the Iowa Tuition Grant.
And the bill met the $19.2 million request that the Regents proposed for a tuition freeze. The University of Iowa saw a 2 percent, or $4.5 million, increase; Iowa State received 4 percent, or $7 million; and recognizing the impact of a tuition freeze on the University of Northern Iowa and their other unique funding needs, the bill provided 4 percent, or $3.3 million, plus an additional $4.4 million.
Other areas receiving increases include state libraries, private school families through textbook assistance, students making a positive life decision in Iowa Jobs for America’s Grads (iJAG), preschool students in early head start programs and Iowa Public Television.
Rebuild IowaInfrastructure Fund
This week, the House passed legislation providing appropriations for the RIIF programs after several improvements were made. The appropriation, which began in the Senate, was amended to remove $14 million in earmarks and was shifted to provide more funding for major and routine maintenance for state parks, recreational trails and the state fair.
Brian Moore, a Republican from Bellevue, represents Iowa House District 58 in the Iowa Legislature, which covers Jackson County.