Iowa lawmakers will soon have to decide how much money public schools should get for the next school year. School funding is looking like it could be one of the biggest fights lawmakers have this year.
Senate Democratic leader Mike Gronstal says Wednesday his chamber will debate giving schools four percent more per student in the coming year.
That statement ups the showdown with Governor Branstad, who told legislators to pass his education reform plan first, then they can talk about more money for schools.
Gronstal says he’s hopeful the talks will be a success.
His plan would cost $135 million. With a projected $1 billion surplus, Democrats feel lawmakers can easily afford that, and make up for zero allowable growth for schools in recent years.
House and Senate Republican leaders wouldn’t rule out a yearly increase for schools, but unlike Gronstal, they want teacher and student performance measures tied into any additional spending.
The Governor also thinks there’s enough money for higher starting teacher salaries and property tax cuts.
Thursday, Senate Republicans laid out their own ideas for using leftover money.
“We need to make sure we have a policy today and moving forward that returns that overpayment of taxes to the taxpayer,” Senator Bill Dix said.
Republicans want a taxpayer trust fund to divvy up an estimated $800 million leftover. That could mean taxpayers would each get $375 back on next year’s taxes.
Once again Governor Branstad emphasized the necessity of leaving extra dollars in reserves because he will need them for future property tax cuts.
The only question now is the math. Will there be enough dollars to add up all those spending and tax cut ideas?