Despite our efforts to compromise, the school funding crisis hit another unfortunate milestone this week as schools were forced to set their budget for the upcoming school year without knowing how much money they will get from the state.
Iowans are just beginning to learn about the devastating results of the legislative stalemate from pink slips for teachers to larger class size to fewer opportunities to higher property taxes.
One school district in Warren County said this week they will be issuing pink slips to 100 teachers because of the uncertainty in state funding. That comes after the superintendent in Davenport said earlier this year his school district would violate state law because of the uncertainty and unfairness for his students.
School districts certainly can’t be blamed for the mess this spring. It falls squarely with Republican lawmakers at the State Capitol who have picked up the gridlock playbook straight from Washington, D.C. this session.
After breaking the law for 461 days on school funding (Iowa law requires us to set k-12 school funding a year and a half in advance), Republicans offered a 1.25% increase in state aid for schools for the upcoming school year in January.
Democrats complied with the law last year and originally proposed a 6% increase in basic school aid. In a move toward compromise in January this year, the Democrats in the Senate approved a 4% increase.
Two months later with no agreement, Democrats tried again to break the logjam and offered another compromise to split the difference between the two proposals at 2.625%. Republicans rejected the offer immediately and have not offered anything since.
Instead of trying to resolve our differences last week and end the crisis, Republican leaders in the House went home early after they scrapped debate for the week on Wednesday and cancelled all committee meetings but just one on Thursday.
Refusing to compromise on essential funding for k-12 schools – which is the most important priority of Iowans – but sending lawmaker home early for the week is the very definition of DC gridlock.
The stalemate on school funding this year has spilled over to everything else and delayed our budget work by at least a month. The delay means there is no possibility that we will end the session on May 1st as planned.
I’m deeply troubled by the unprecedented gridlock that Republicans have brought to the State Capitol this year.
Up until this year, the Legislature has largely avoided the problems that plague Washington, DC and found a way to work together on things like health care, education reform, and property taxes.
Last fall, voters in Iowa picked divided government with a Republican Governor, Democratic Senate, and Republican House.
While Republicans apparently believe that means gridlock, it doesn’t have to be that way.
I think Iowans were sending another message: work together.