More than a year later than required by state law, negotiators in the Iowa House and Senate have agreed to a two-point-two-five percent increase in basic state aid for K-12 schools next year.
Democrats say that’s the “best they can do” with a divided legislature. The compromise is about 80 million dollars less than the 4 percent increase Democrats approved, but Republicans say schools will receive 87 percent of all new state revenue next year.
Tom Narak with the School Administrators of Iowa calls the compromise obviously inadequate.
“We're glad they've got a settlement, so that will be easier for schools,” Narak said, referring to the April 15 deadline for approving state budgets. “But we anticipate that most schools are going to have to make reductions,” Narak added.
Narak says that may include layoffs.
Emily Piper with the Iowa Association of School Boards says the increase affects per-pupil spending. So schools with declining enrollments won’t get a raise.
“Our figures show you’ll have 72 districts who will see no new money because of declining enrollment,” Piper said.
One senator predicted more districts will be forced to merge because of the financial pressure.
Schools had awaited the decision for months. Maquoketa Democrat Tod Bowman defended the bill, saying, "Iowans sent us to the capitol to take care of business and we’re doing it."
“When you have a split chamber that’s just the way it is a lot of times,” said Sioux City Republican Ron Jorgensen.
Bowman and Jorgenson led the ten-member joint committee that negotiated the compromise. The increase falls short of the two-point-four-five percent increase the Governor seeks.
Three Democrats joined all five Republicans to approve the bill. Ames Democrat Herman Quirmbach voted yes.
“But only grudgingly,” Quirmbach said.
The Senate has voted to increase school aid by 4 percent for the 2017-2018 school year. The House hasn't addressed the second year of school funding yet, even though state law requires the legislature to approve state aid a year in advance.