Education Financing A Spark At Eggs And Issues
Oskaloosa, Iowa – It’s a winter institution in Oskaloosa on Saturday mornings. This weeks meeting began with a snow storm taking place, making for a picturesque scene for everyone to enjoy.
Opening statements by the legislators started with Sen. Ken Rozenboom (R-Oskaloosa) who talked about the sub-committee and committee work that was taking place at this point. The majority of floor debate in the Iowa Senate centered around funding for education for the 2016 fiscal year. Rozenboom said that Senate Democrats offered a bill that would raise spending for education 6% for supplemental aid, for the fiscal year 2016. Rozenboom said it passed from the Senate “on a party-line vote.”
“I voted against that because I do not believe we can sustain 6% growth in that,” Rozenboom said. He explained that he also voted no on the bill because the state has a bad track record of keeping it’s promises in school funding.
Rep. Larry Sheets (R-Moulton) talked about the Rural Improvement Zone Bill that passed out of the Local Government Sub-committee Sheets chairs. Sheets hopes to steer the bill through full committee and to the floor of the Iowa House for debate. Rural Improvement Zones would impact only counties of less than 20,000 residents.
Another bill Sheets has drafted address an issued that deal with the early release of individuals from custody for good behavior. The draft would address some issues that arose after a young Iowa girl, Kathlynn Shepard, was killed by a recent parole Michael Klunder.
“The bill that I have filed, would not allow a person with that record to be released for good behavior,” Sheets said.
Rep. Guy Vaner Linden (R-Oskaloosa) rounded out the opening comments from the legislators. He also expressed the current condition at the state house as getting legislation out of sub-committee has been the biggest challenge so far. “Next week in the House, we will finally get around to voting on some things.”
“The important stuff is always about the money,” Vander Linden said. “We are now getting our first detailed look at what the Governor has proposed in the way of appropriations.” Vander Linden believes that the total budget will get whittled down by the House compared to the Governors proposal. “The appropriations process is underway and hopefully next week we’ll make some solid progress.”
That very debate about money is what sparked the conversation concerning school funding. Oskaloosa School Superintendent asked the legislators about the supplemental aid and if a decision would be made on what that figure would be like for the 2016 fiscal year for school districts. He pointed towards a rule that places a deadline on that as February 13th. “You’ve got 5 days, and yet what we hear constantly is, well, we don’t know what we have, we don’t know what we’re going to have, we can’t overextend ourselves.”
Reiter said that planning for the future and looking to invest in a multi-year program is difficult without knowing what the legislature is planning on expending in education.
“My role here as superintendent, control the budget. I can’t do that if you’re not gonna follow the law and in 5 days set that allowable growth, excuse me, state supplemental aid that I need to see,” Reiter said to the legislators.
“I get the point of your question, and it’s a valid point,” said Rozenboom. “When we’re talking about 5 year projections, those are estimates.”
Five year revenue projects are made by the state, and re-evaluated several times throughout the year. Rozenboom said, “Yes, we have five year projects, but things will change those projections over time. That’s just a reality. On your side of it, I think you could recognize history tells us the state legislature will consistently fund education. If you want to know where our priorities are, it takes 55% of the state money to fund education.”
“Pick a number somewhere between 2 and 4 percent. That’s probably where your expectations are. You don’t know what your enrollments going to be 5 years down the road either.”
“It was a couple of years back, allowable growth was zero percent. There was a 10 percent cut,” said Sheets. He explained that 2 percent allowable growth was common. Sheets said that when Republicans went to a two year budget format, they also tried to change the law that placed a deadline for setting what was known as allowable growth.
The legislators pointed towards a time when Governor Chet Culver cut the state budget across the board in 2009, including education by 10 percent, as an example of not being able to predict where an economy may go, and with that state budgets.
The next Eggs and Issues will take place on February 22nd.