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Democrats say 3% increase to education funding not enough

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(The Center Square) – The Iowa House of Representatives agreed Thursday to a 3% increase in state supplemental aid for Iowa’s schools after a debate over whether the increase is enough to keep schools afloat.

Rep. Phil Thompson, R-Boone, said the increase would raise per-pupil costs by $229 to $7,864, giving schools $146.7 million in additional money. The amount meets the budget target, which includes a separate bill with more money for teachers’ and paraprofessionals’ salaries.

Gov. Kim Reynolds is proposing a 2.5% increase.

“We feel that 3% is the right number to support our public schools,” said House Speaker Pat Grassley in his Thursday weekly newsletter.

Democrats asked for a 6% increase in an amendment.

Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, the amendment’s sponsor, said that 116 schools would have to raise property taxes without additional funding.

“Last year we passed a bill for vouchers and guess what, they don’t have a target,” Steckman said. “They have an unlimited standing appropriation.”

Rep. Molly Buck, D-Ankeny, a teacher, said school systems are facing millions in cuts.

“What else are we going to ask students to do without–counselors, custodians, choir? Six percent will keep schools open. Six percent keeps counselors and social workers in our schools. Six percent keeps our class sizes manageable. Three percent does not,” Buck said.

The amendment was defeated.

No Republicans spoke on the House floor about the bill, but Grassley addressed the Democrats’ comments in his newsletter.

“As they always do, Democrats will say Republicans are underfunding public education,” Grassley said. “But Republicans are responsible for record-high education investments over the last decade. K-12 education funding has increased by almost a billion new dollars over the last 10 years. The last time education funding was actually cut, was when Democrats had the trifecta in 2010.”

The bill passed by a vote of 60-35.

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