The battle for top-quality Iowa schools continues

school houseAcross Iowa, students and teachers are coming to the end of another school year. Unfortunately, there is still no compromise on funding for the next school year, which begins in August.

More than three months ago, I voted to provide a 4 percent increase in school funding for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. House Republicans and Governor Branstad proposed a meager 1.25 percent increase for 2015-16 and 2.45 percent for 2016-17. In an effort to compromise, Senate Democrats lowered our proposal to 2.625 percent for the 2015-16 school year.

Parents and teachers have told me that this compromise, which is exactly halfway between the initial Senate and House proposals, would ensure continued high quality educational experiences for students. Widespread reports indicate the House’s proposal would result in classrooms that are more crowded, fewer course offerings and extracurricular activities, and higher property taxes. Yet Republicans refuse to budge.

Last week, the Senate made another effort to provide sufficient dollars for the next two school years when we approved SF 510. This bill also funds our Area Education Agencies (AEAs). AEAs provide critical support for local schools, helping with everything from special education to technology. House Republicans, on the other hand, now want to cut $15 million from the AEAs and are lowering their school funding proposal from 2.45 to 2 percent for 2016-17 (HSB 252).

This is not the way to strengthen student achievement, teacher quality and Iowa’s middle class. Iowa is known for high-quality education, but year after year of inadequate funding will take its toll on our students, our communities and our state’s economic future.

We will continue to fight for Iowa students, even as they begin their summer vacation. I hope House Republicans will start working with us on a reasonable school funding solution that will give Iowa families confidence that their kids will be returning to a great learning environment in the fall.

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