Legislators find “middle ground” on education budget


June 30th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

After a protracted stand-off over state spending on schools, the two political parties have agreed to a status quo level of state aid to K-through-12 public schools for the school year that begins this fall. However, the agreement calls for two percent more in per-pupil state aid in the following year. Representative Cecil Dolecheck, a Republican from Mount Ayr, helped craft the final deal. “It’s a compromise that’s pretty close to middle ground,” Dolecheck says.

Republicans had proposed ending state-funded preschool programs, but Democrats objected. This year, the state spent about 36-hundred dollars on each four-year-old enrolled in public preschool programs. The compromise calls for reducing that state spending by about seven-hundred dollars per student. Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Coralville, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and he sees that as a victory. “There’s a lot of support for preschool out there,” Dvorsky says.

Dvorsky says school districts needed that extra seven-hundred dollars per preschooler the past few years as programs were started, but Dvorsky says preschools should be able to easily operate on with about three-thousand dollars per student in the coming year.

The Iowa House has just endorsed the education budget bill, which includes spending for the state-supported universities and community colleges, too. The Senate is expected to take up the plan soon. The next state budgeting year begins Friday, July 1st and legislators are racing to strike final deals and pass bills that outline the final details of a nearly six-billion dollar state budget.

There is a budget-related dispute over abortion policy which remains unresolved. The effort to enact a major property tax reform package has been abandoned today, but Governor Branstad is hinting he’ll press the issue, perhaps in a special session later this year.

(O.Kay Henderson/Radio Iowa)