Key lawmakers from both political parties say when it comes to education reform, money matters rather than policy differences may be harder to bridge. Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, says Democrats will argue the amount of state tax dollars and property taxes forwarded to school budgets should grow by four percent in each of the next two years. “It’s unfortunate that the two issues got entwined, but they were,” Quirmbach says, “so that’s one thing we’ll have to resolve.” House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, says the plan from Senate Democrats is more than 100-million dollars above what the House G-O-P proposed in February.
“That’s a pretty big number for a state like Iowa,” Paulsen says. “We’ll have to figure that out.” The Senate Democrats’ plan would forward schools an extra four-hundred dollars per student to implement teacher improvement plans. The House Republicans’ plan calls for about 100-dollars less per student. Senator Quirmbach says this is not just about providing bonuses to teachers chosen to coach other teachers. “To the extent that teachers are taken out of the classroom to provide this mentorship kind of idea, you have to hire additional people to fill their places in the classroom,” Quirmbach says, “so it does get expensive.”
The Senate Education Committee spent two and a half minutes talking about education reform Tuesday afternoon, as lawmakers rush the bill through the legislative process and into a 10-member committee that will try to find a compromise. Senator Joni Ernst is a Republican from Red Oak. “I still think we’re missing an opportunity with school choice and independent accredidation and so forth,” Ernst said, “but, again, I am glad that we are bringing up this bill and will head to conference committee.
On Monday, Governor Branstad said education reform was his number one priority for lawmakers. That’s a switch, as Branstad had been saying property tax reform was at the top priority for 2013.