As a new school year gets under way, I know teachers, staff, administrators and school boards will provide great educational opportunities for our students. However, they’ll face a challenge because funding is much less than they expected.
Iowa education funding has fallen behind the increasing investments made by other states. We’re now in the bottom third of states for K-12 per-pupil funding, investing $1,612 less per student than the national average.
We planned to reverse that trend this year, until Governor Branstad’s last-minute veto of a bipartisan compromise. Now our K-12 schools will be out $56 million that they’d hoped to use this fall for updated textbooks, computers, lab equipment and other teaching tools.
A recent poll shows the majority of Iowans oppose the Governor’s veto. They know Iowa has enough money to make the necessary investments in our students and schools while balancing the state budget responsibly. The state’s nonpartisan Revenue Estimating Conference projects state revenues will grow by 6 percent this year. In addition, we have a budget surplus of more than $300 million and almost $700 million in our reserve funds, the largest amount in state history.
Years of not helping our schools keep up with the cost of inflation is taking its toll. The loss of funds this year is resulting in staff layoffs, program cuts, larger class sizes and higher property taxes.
Senate Democrats are committed to making Iowa schools No. 1 again. We respect the work of teachers, administrators and school board members, and will fight again next session for the kind of increase that Iowa students deserve. We need to ensure that Iowa’s next generation will be at a competitive advantage when it comes to education and job opportunities.