Liz Mathis: “Skip The Drama” In School Funding

State Senator Liz Mathis of Marion urges state to “skip the drama” in setting local school funding

Will consider 4% increase in basic school funding and additional state dollars to prevent any related property tax increase

Liz Mathis, a member of the Senate Education Committee, Wednesday spoke to the Senate and urged legislators to work together to determine local school funding in a timely responsible manner.  The House and Governor failed last year to follow Iowa law which calls for school aid to be set a year and a half in advance.

Local school boards, administrators and educators have expressed concern that school funding could get caught up in a lengthy, disruptive state budget battle.


Today, we start fixing a problem that we really created last session.

That problem occurred when certain members of the Iowa House—with the cooperation of Governor Branstad—ignored the law requiring the Legislature to set basic aid to local schools a year in advance.

The Governor signed this legislation back in 1995.  And for almost twenty years, I think you’d agree that it’s worked pretty well.

The first thing the Legislature did each year was set basic funding levels for local schools for the following year.

And I decribe this process—I’m preaching to the chior—but I describe it to reiterate how important it is.

Schools knew a year and a half in advance what financial resources they had.  Rather than juggling budgets from year to year at the last minute  School boards, administrators and educators could balance their budgets so they could focus on improving student achievement.

And is that what we’re here for?  Yes.  That’s what we’ve been talking about for a very long time.

April 15th, that is the most important  legal deadline that Iowa  schools will face when writing their budgets, that will take effect on July 1st, as all of you know.  Schools need to sign contracts with teachers, they need to plan course offerings, and they need to make some big and basic decisions.

Should they guess what sort of funding they have to work with?  Should we just let them guess.  Is guesswork the operating approach we are suggesting that Iowa’s school districts adopt?

After all, two years ago, the Legislature didn’t finish the state budget until hours before the final, final, final deadline of July 1.  You remember that.  Many of you legislators do.

And this year, Governor Branstad has said he won’t address basic school funding until a reform proposal is set into law.

We can, and must, do better.

At 1 PM today, there will be a subcommittee meeting on the Senate Democratic proposals to increase basic support for local schools by four percent next year, and to provide additional state funds to prevent ANY related increase in local property taxes.

I hope that next week the Iowa Senate will approve both proposals.

We’re counting on everyone in this body to do that.

We need to step up and do the right thing.

Districts will be forced to assume that there will be no increase in state aid.  Teachers will be laid off.  Cuts will be made.  And perhaps the most important point, student achievement will suffer because of this.

Let’s skip the drama.  Let’s instead put the quality of Iowa local schools first.

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