School Funding Discussion Starts Off Eggs and Issues
Oskaloosa, Iowa – Eggs and Issues is a community gathering that happens once every two weeks during the legislative session. Area residents ask questions of local lawmakers in hopes of being a better informed public.
This, the third week of the popular question and answer session touched on several topics, starting off with opening statements from Representative Guy Vander Linden (R) and Senator Ken Rozenboom (R).
Vander Linden expressed his thoughts on how the legislative session was progressing. At this point, he believes that the session is moving along slowly, “we are not seeing a lot of bills move real quickly. That may be because of Republicans controlling the House and the Democrats controlling the Senate. It seems to me things are going kind of slowly.”
Vander Linden believes that the “big things” yet to be debated are education spending and the topic of allowable growth for schools.
“All taxes are the other big thing,” Vander Linden says.
Vander Linden talked about the differences in approach for school spending between the House and Senate, where 4% allowable growth has already passed the Democrat controlled Iowa Senate. “The House is going to take up the governors education bill probably late next week, maybe early the following week and we’ll [House] talk about allowable growth after that.” Vander Linden said he’s “reasonably confident there will be allowable growth, but maybe not at the 4% level.”
Senator Ken Rozenboom (R) touched upon the Medicaid discussion that is currently underway in Iowa. “I know of no issues that equals the number of emails sent to me than that one,” Rozenboom says. “That’s a tough one to get your mind wrapped around, as usual there are two sides in the issue and it’s going to be a tough matter.”
Oskaloosa Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt asked the legislators if they had any idea of where the “floor” or very bottom of the budget would be for schools, so that area school superintendents could work toward having their budgets ready in time.
“I’m not aware of any range,” Rozenboom told Krutzfeldt. Rozenboom mentioned that the 4% allowable growth had passed through the Senate, “It was a party line vote.” Rozenboom added, “A lot of us think we need to have the discussion on what reform looks like before we answer the question about funding.”
Rep. Guy Vander Linden added, “The governor’s plan has a lot of spending in it and I think it behooves us to get that settled before we decide OK, now we’re going to spend this much. How much do the schools have to have.” Vander Linden said, “The governor’s bill is not going to come out untouched. There are some things in there that folks object to. There are things that are not in there that people insist do go in, so the debate is going to be extensive. In fact, it’s already begun in committee and caucus.”
Vander Linden added, “It’s going to be close whether or not we get to allowable growth in a timely manner so that the schools can count on what we have done.” He explained that there is also a bill that would extend the time for schools to get their numbers in. Vander Linden expressed that he is concerned about the timeliness of getting funding information to schools, “because I don’t want to leave local school boards just hanging in the wind.”
Oskaloosa School Superintendent Russ Reiter expressed some thoughts on that subject from a local perspective.
“Within the budget, which is actually looking pretty good next year in regards to our local property taxes. We’re currently sitting at about $15.90 per $1000. We’re hoping to drop that, in the neighborhood of a dollar, and still be able to fund what we need to fund. Now that being said, we can drop it that far, and again with board approval. Where that allowable growth comes in, right now there’s only about a five cent difference. So even if we drop it a dollar, there’s a five penny difference between two percent and four percent. There’s two cents difference between 4% and 3%.”