EDUCATION FUNDS: Lawmakers At Odds Over Allowable Growth

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The legislative session has only just begun and so has the fight over funding.  The Democrats are accusing Governor Branstad of putting the cart before the horse, when it comes to education reform.

The fight is centered around which should come first, setting allowable growth for schools or including allowable growth in a larger effort to reform the education system.

Allowable growth is the mechanism by which school districts set their budgets. Governor Branstad asked lawmakers to hold-off and make it part of the bigger plan later in the session.

Republicans are on his side, but Democrats say it is required by law for allowable growth to be set in the first 30 days of the session.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal said, “We don’t think that they should be bullying us and we also don’t think our response should be to bully them back.  That doesn’t lead to anything productive.  So, we told his (Branstad) folks we were going to comply with the law and then we were going to, in an orderly way, take up his recommendations.”

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen said, “Again, he (Branstad) put forth his proposal.  I think the funding, including allowable growth, is part of that conversation.  And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Democrats are asking for school budgets to be allowed to grow by 4 percent, about a $130 million increase. They say by using the money from the Taxpayer Trust Fund, property taxes won’t have to increase.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen says the increase doesn’t seem sustainable for the future.