[by Paul McAndrew]
Governor Branstad and Iowa’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives propose only a 1.25 percent increase ($50 million) in state funding for elementary and secondary schools in Iowa’s 338 public school districts. This meager increase would keep Iowa’s schools 37th among the 50 states for state-funding level. Iowa’s total expenditure per student is also well below the national average. This puny allocation would put Iowa’s per-pupil payment at 35th among our sister states.
The Democratic-controlled Senate on Tuesday—on a straight 26-24 party-line vote—overcame Republican opposition to seek a 4 percent increase ($212 million). Earlier, the Democratic Senate caucus had discussed proposing a larger, 6 percent increase.
Democrats are right that the 4 percent increase is the absolute least needed to bring our schools up to the standards met in other states, such as Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota and Nebraska. The 1.25 percent proposed by the Republicans would not even cover the increase in costs due to inflation.
Yet, Senate Republicans lamented that they truly want better schools. But they won’t put our money behind their alleged “want.” Instead, they question the “sustainability” of the 4 percent funding level. They would let our public school system deteriorate more.
It does not make sense. The Republicans—through former Secretary of State Matt Schultz—wasted almost a million dollars trying to prove we need “voter identification.” All Schultz proved was there is no voter fraud. Thank goodness it was mostly federal money that Schultz wasted.
As if that was not enough, however, the new Republican Secretary of State, Paul Pate, is now spending even more money in efforts to show that ever-elusive “voter fraud” so they can slap new “voter identification” on our people, thus barring many—mostly poor, old and minority voters—from voting. We all know there is no election fraud. When is the last time you saw “election fraud?”
Yet, the GOP in our state government spend millions hunting down a bogey-man the GOP says is election fraud. And then we can’t give 4 percent/$212M for our children?
No, it does not make sense at all.
What about when Governor Branstad and the GOP in 2012 forced another “economic development” project on us. Branstad said that Iowa had to give Orascom, an Egyptian corporation, “incentive” to put its fertilizer plant in Wever. The incentive was our tax dollars. Through GOP largesse, we taxpayers provided Orascom $100 million in tax credits, $1.6 million in loans, $7.4 million in sales tax refunds, $60,000 in supplemental research tax credits, a $2 million state transportation grant, and about $1.8 million for job training assistance. Branstad did not take account of that Orascom had already been given by the U. S. government about $300 million in savings from a federal tax-exempt bond program; and another $133 million by Lee County in forgone property taxes from the county. The return on Branstad’s Orascom “buy”—165 jobs for an unstated number of years. Those 165 jobs were thus estimated by Sen. Joe Bolkcom to cost us taxpayers about $3.3 million per job. We give an Egyptian private company hundreds of millions to make more money for their shareholders? We can’t give 4 percent/$212M for our children?
I can’t accept the Republicans questioning the “sustainability” of providing a 4 percent increase in public school funding. They sustain spending that is wasteful and pointless if it meets the GOP ends. They should make our children part of their ends.
Education should be priority No. 1. It represents our children’s best future. There is nothing more important than that. We do have to try harder to help our children. They deserve our best.
Please contact your legislators and make sure we get what our children need. Here’s the link to find your state legislators: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators.