Iowa House approves freeze on state aid to school districts
The Iowa House on Tuesday approved a package of measures that would freeze basic state aid to public schools for the next two years.
The package was approved largely along party lines, with Republicans approving the freeze in the amount of money the state puts into the complex school funding formula. One measure would shift about $48 million from other parts of the budget to help offset expected property tax hikes as a result of the freeze. That measure received some support from Democrats.
Instead of providing zero growth, State Rep. Curt Hanson, a Democrat from Fairfield who represents House District 90, voted for a plan to increase support to K-12 schools next year.
“With our economy growing stronger each month and a $900 million budget surplus this year, the state can afford to give our schools a boost next year while keeping the state budget balanced,” said Hanson Tuesday. “World-class schools are essential to growing our economy in the future, and I was proud to stand up for parents, teachers, and Iowa kids today.”
“Zero growth for our schools the next two years is simply inadequate and will lead to larger class sizes and consolidation in rural districts,” said Hanson. “The state budget is a reflection of our priorities, and I strongly believe we should keep our commitment to world-class schools before providing millions in tax breaks to the biggest corporations and those who don’t need it.”
Rep. Jarad Klein, a Republican from Keota who represents House District 89, which includes the northeastern part of Jefferson County, voted to shield local property taxpayers from an increase in property taxes resulting from a $216 million increase in education funding.
According to Klein, due to underfunding from previous legislatures, a zero percent growth rate still increases state funding for education. Therefore, the House set the rate at zero percent, which puts $216 million in new money into Iowa’s schools.
To prevent an increase for property taxpayers due to declining enrollments, Republicans also approved a bill that has the state assume the responsibility.
In previous years, property taxpayers were forced to pick up the cost of increased funding. Many Iowans are seeing the result in their property tax bills. However, Klein is committed to fully funding the state’s share of allowable growth to stop saddling property taxpayers with a growing burden.
“Iowans expect the Legislature to make education a priority. They also expect a budget that does not spend more than the state takes in. I believe we can do both,” said Klein.
The zero percent measure approved by the Iowa House now goes to the Senate. Democrats who control the Senate are pushing for a 2 percent increase — or about $65 million — in basic state funding for schools.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this article.
For the complete article, see the Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, printed edition of The Fairfield Ledger.