Iowa Educators Worried Over House Republican Education Budget

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  If House Republicans see their budget passed, K-12 schools in Iowa will see $40 million in new funding; but educators say that's not enough.

Schools are now preparing to make do with what one professional educator says is a “devastating” funding level.

House Republicans are proposing a 1.1% funding increase over last year, which works out to roughly $40 million.

Educators expected to see at least the 2% increase that Governor Branstad proposed.

“The cost of doing business is right around 3.5%, so just for our schools to function to turn on the lights, to pay the bills, you’re looking at 3.5%,” said Dr. Tammy Wawro, President of the Iowa State Education Association.

In a survey conducted by Iowa Democrats, over three quarters of school superintendents responded they needed at least a 4% increase in funding for their schools.

“It’s pretty sad. It’s not the Iowa that our forefathers set forth. The schoolhouse on the corner. That’s the Iowa I know and that’s the Iowa that most people understand and care about,” said Wawro.

Now Wawro and other education professionals worry about what they'll need to cut in order to have a balanced budget.

“You wouldn’t purchase textbooks, you’re going to have less opportunities, less programs, things our children love to come to school and do. The outside activities, you have to cut some of those places,” said Wawro.

Southeast Polk Community Schools now prepare to run their classrooms with $400,000 less than they expected.

“Whether that’s trying to create a better energy management system, whether that’s creating a better HVAC system…we don’t want to put any undue stress within our community when it comes to taxpayers because we know that's not where we want to go with this, but we want to continue to provide these services,” said Kevin Baccam, Executive Director of Business Services.

However, saving money through energy efficiency is what Baccam calls "low hanging fruit," and believes saving money through staff reduction is on the table.

“Those positions that do come up, whether that’s early retirement or those that do leave, we will definitely be looking at those positions on a one-on-one basis to see if we can wait to hire those positions, or maybe not hire those positions at all,” said Baccam.

Educators also worry that with fewer teachers in the classrooms, more students will be at risk when the third grade reading retention program goes into effect in 2018.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the budget later in the week.