On Wednesday, Feb. 5, State Senator Herman Quirmbach of Ames voted to approve a 6 percent increase in local school (Senate Files 2079 and 2077). Senator Quirmbach, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, was the floor manager for both bills. Quirmbach also successfully approved using additional state dollars to prevent any related property tax increase (SF 2078).
The six percent increase would be welcome news for Iowa’s community schools. Since 2011, Iowa has fallen to 37th in the nation in terms of per pupil spending.
“Iowa is more than $1,500 below the national average in terms of how much we invest per student. We should return to putting our local students first with regard to the state budget,” said Quirmbach. “Today the Senate obeyed the 20-year old state law requiring the Legislature to set local school funding 18 months in advance. We’ve also approved enough dollars to start repairing damage from several lean years.”
This week a survey of Iowa school superintendents found that 98.6 percent believe Iowa should return to budgeting ahead for local school funding (http://bit.ly/1irPiuQ). In recent years, Republican lawmakers have defied the advance budgeting law, and K12 education funding has become entangled with other partisan disagreements. The superintendent survey found that educators overwhelmingly believe that predictable, sustained state investment in education is the most effective way to increase Iowa student achievement.
“I voted today for higher student achievement and more financial stability in school budgets,” Quirmbach said. “These are the dollars that buy the basics: paying the teachers, purchasing up-to-date textbooks, keeping the lights on, and gassing up the buses. It is time to put politics aside, follow the law, and support the students who will be the foundation of a strong Iowa economy.”
Under current state law, the Legislature is required to set school funding within 30 days after the Governor’s budget is presented. For the 2014 session, that day is Feb. 13.