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EDUCATION DEBATE: House Passes Education Bill

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With more money in the general fund the State Senate voted to give millions more to state public universities next year. Tuesday afternoon the House passed a bill that does the opposite.

The bill passed mostly along party lines, 56 to 42. Only two republicans voted against it. No democrats supported the bill.

Debate of the Education Appropriations Bill drew strong opinions on the House floor, and led to heated discussions between Democrats and Republicans. The house proposal includes a $31,000,000 drop in funding for state universities.

“If we underfund our regents at 1994 levels, they are going to have to lay some people off and when they do that class sizes are going to increase and class sizes are going to fill up right away and it’s going to be really tough to graduate in four years,” said State Representative (D) Beth Wessel-Kroeschell.

Several democratic amendments to lessen the cuts failed along party lines with republicans arguing state revenue leaves them with no choice.

“We set some targets that live within the priorities established by the republican caucus; we wanted to make sure we didn’t spend more money than we took in revenues. We wanted to make sure we didn’t use one time money to fund ongoing expenditures,” said State Representative (R) Cecil Dolecheck.

The house bill also freezes tuition next year.

“The tuition freeze came out of the blue. I just heard they did it this week; I’m not sure what the reasoning was. If you freeze the tuition of universities that’s probably an additional 25 million dollar cut,” said State Senator Brian Schoenjahn.

The House version now goes to the senate, where lawmakers already approved their own education funding plan. However that version increases funding by $34,000,000. That leaves a $65,000 gap between the 2 versions.

The Governor’s proposal is more in line with what the Senate is proposing. Governor Branstad wants to increase university funding by $23,000,000.