Letter to the Editor: Why did Branstad veto $55.7 for education?

To the Editor:
It was a mystery to me why Governor Branstad vetoed the $55.7 million for one-time education funds that was a bi-partisan agreement that was reached in an overtime legislation session. The state of Iowa presently has over a billion in surplus and this $55.7 million was returned to the general fund - a mere  .005% addition to the surplus. Do you remember the battle over the budget regarding funding for education in this last session? The Democrats came down to a 1.625% increase (down from 4%) and the Republicans hunkered down and said, “No more money for education beyond the 1.25% increase.” Negotiations stalled and time and overtime ran out. So the Republicans talked it over among themselves and decided to offer to make up the difference with a deal to accept a $55.7 million one-time spending deal if it did not go for teacher’s wages - just supplies, books, gas for the buses, etc. 
Wow, hmm - the Republicans went against their principles and knuckled under for more education funding?  Why would they do such a thing? I know it would be a cynical view to connect the late Branstad veto with the earlier Republican House decision to compromise on the education funding, but similar coincidences have occurred in past political gaming. Maybe our governor fell on his sword, so the House Republicans could shout out in the next election, “Hey, I compromised and voted for the increase in Education just like the Dems - how could I know our governor was going to veto our 55.7 million?”  Branstad did mention to the Washington Post that running again may not be in the cards.
Are the so-called increases to education actually real increases? It is true that the percent allotted this year is greater than last year, but the relevant question that should be asked is whether past funding has been adequate enough to cover, at least, the rate of inflation. The answer is no and, therefore, not adequate to cover rising costs. The Iowa Fiscal Partnership, non-profit, non-partisan group, stated in a recent paper titled, “Iowa Budget Dilemma of 2014,” “Over an extended period, due to two budget crises in the last decade, K-12 schools have had their per-pupil spending held below actual cost increases, which over time compounds the underfunding of public education.”
Neither the governor nor the legislature can claim accurately that they have provided sufficient funds for Iowa Schools - and the question comes 16 months past the legal deadline. Under state law, the funds should be passed two years in advance and should have covered through the fiscal year 2017, so superintendents and school boards have adequate time to plan their budgets.
This veto was not about reducing the burden to tax payers.  The irony here is that leaving the schools with 1.25% growth in cost per pupil for fiscal 2016, well below actual costs, will drive up property taxes in many districts. While it is wise and prudent of save funds for a rainy day, to avoid investing in our future when adequate funds are available is reckless and irresponsible. Our future in Iowa lies in the education of our youth.
This is not about profligate spending - this is about determination of what is essential, significant and responsible. We need to acknowledge that our teachers are professionals and necessary builders of the foundation of our society and our democracy - and the education of our youth is the edifice of our collective strength.
David Wilkerson, Waukee Schools Superintendent, addressed Governor Branstad’s veto on WHOTV recently - he said, “I would say please stop looking at education as just a cost, and start looking at education as the investment that it is; the investment in the human capital and really the future of our state.” I think Mr. Wilkerson has it right.

George Blair
New Albin