DEADLINE DEBATE: Fight Over Education Ultimatum

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Ultimatum or not ultimatum? It seems the answer is in the eye of the beholder.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad believes experience working at the statehouse shows lawmakers can't get their work finished on time. State leaders are trying to decide the best way to improve and reform Iowa's educational system. Part of the debate will include what is known as allowable growth. That is the yearly increase in per-student funding school districts receive from lawmakers. In recent years, it has been a point of contention with lawmakers. Some believe the state should cut costs and keep the yearly increase low. Others believe larger increases are essential to help schools improve.

Monday, the governor said, "The experience of the last 20 years is they'll spend all their time fighting over funding and we won't get the improvements and reforms we need too that's going to improve student improvement."

So, instead, Branstad wants lawmakers to pass his reforms package by next month. Then he said they can decide whether schools should get additional funding. He maintains he isn't giving them an ultimatum to do what he wants first and they can talk about what they want.

However, Democrats like Mason City Representative Sharon Steckman, a retired teacher, see it otherwise. Steckman said, "I just would like to get through all the rhetoric and go right to what we need to do."

Steckman said Democrats may actually support some of Branstad's reform ideas, which come, in part, following a legislative education task force last year. But she feels the only way to determine true reforms is to also figure in the additional revenue the school districts need.