News from the State House

by State Representative Patti Ruff

Instead of resolving the school funding crisis this week, the House majority party wasted nearly two days blaming Iowa teachers for the crisis. It’s really a distraction they are using so Iowans won’t pay attention to their plan to ignore and underfund our K-12 schools.
As a former school board member at MFL-MarMac, I know the tough position our schools are in this year.
School officials, parents, and students have been telling me every day that leadership’s plan to underfund our schools mean larger class sizes, fewer course offerings, and cuts to enriching programs like music, sports, mock trial, debate, art, and PE. It also will increase property taxes for almost half the school districts in the state.
We know Iowa is already falling behind at $1,612 below the national average in per pupil spending. We also know Iowa has some of the best teachers in the nation who work hard every day building our skilled workforce.
Since session began, we have heard that the state can’t afford more than a 1.25% increase for schools, which is about $99 million next year. That’s why I was shocked this week when, out of Ways and Means, the House majority passed a new bill full of tax breaks – overwhelmingly targeted to those at the top – that will cost the state $520 million next year.
If House leadership can find $520 million for a new tax break, there is clearly enough money to resolve the school funding crisis and quickly approve a 4% increase in school funding next week. Half a million kids in our K-12 school system are waiting for us to take action and prove to them that they are our first priority.
I had the honor of having lunch with the members from Allamakee-Clayton REC. Arlyn Fossum and others were down for REC day on the Hill. The booth they had in the rotunda focused on their expansion into broadband.
On Thursday, the AEAs were here for their legislative breakfast. Pat Heidersheit came down from Keystone AEA. We spoke about school funding and the start date issue. Pat does a great job at Keystone AEA and we are very lucky to have him in that role as director.