Lawmakers pass 2.3% education funding increase

By: - March 4, 2020 2:10 pm

Students study in a classroom. (Photo by Getty Images)

The Iowa Senate and House both approved a bill Wednesday providing a 2.3% increase in supplemental state aid for public schools. Democrats criticized the amount, calling for at least a 3% increase for schools.

During a heated debate, Senate Democrats chastised Senate Republicans for failing to meet the deadline to provide school funding to districts within the first 30 days of the legislative session. They also argued that the proposed amount was not enough to fully fund Iowa schools, which they say are struggling with growing class sizes and maintaining quality teachers.

“We’re not treating our teachers as we should,” Sen. Jackie Smith, D-Sioux City, said. “They are teaching your kids and your grandkids. They should be the most revered profession in the state.”

But Senate Education Committee chair Amy Sinclair said she couldn’t control negotiations with the House, which she said resulted in the delay. 

Sinclair said the total education funding passed this year in the Senate includes funds for addressing violence in classrooms, dyslexia and online learning, all of which were concerns teachers and parents voiced. 

Initially, the Iowa House proposed increasing supplemental state aid for K-12 schools by 2.5% to keep in line with the governor’s proposal of adding $95 million. Senate Republicans proposed a 2.1% increase, adding $76 million.

Concern about mental health issues in classrooms was the reason Rep. Jeff Shipley, R-Birmingham, said he would not support a 2.3% increase in money for schools. He said lawmakers are not having a serious discussion about the causes of behavior disorders in classrooms, including screen time “or even a good night’s sleep,” he said.

He added, “Unfortunately, it seems the focus is about how much money we can spend and it’s never going to be enough.”

House Democrats responded that money is at the root of schools’ ability to hire counselors, nurses and mental-health professionals.  “Schools don’t have the resources to deal with the mental health (issues) with the students,” Rep. Bob Kressig, D-Cedar Falls, said.

Sinclair said the Iowa Legislature will be able to follow through with the 2.3% increase, which provides about $85.57 million. That’s about $10 million less than Gov. Kim Reynolds pitched at the beginning of the 2020 session.

“I’m promising to deliver funding to K-12,” Sinclair said.

The bill goes next to Gov. Kim Reynolds.


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