School funding compromise breaks gridlock, ends session

The Legislature closed out the 2015 session with Senate Democrats opting to end five months of gridlock on school funding. The goal of the compromise is to maintain educational opportunities and boost student achievement.

The final agreement provides an additional $156 million for the 2015-16 school year. The compromise includes a 1.25 percent increase in basic aid for our local schools as well as an extra $56 million in one-time funding for Iowa schools this fall.

The attention now turns to Gov. Terry Branstad, who must sign this funding or veto the compromise. A veto would result in larger class sizes, fewer course offerings and extracurricular activities, and higher property taxes. I encourage you to contact the governor, and ask him to sign into law the school funding approved by the Legislature in Senate File 510 and House File 666. You can e-mail him by going to www.governor.iowa.gov/constituent-services/register-an-opinion or call his office at 515-281-5211.

After several lean years, Iowa’s improving economy makes it possible to do more for our students and schools. The state has nearly $1 billion in savings, but as support for our public schools has become divided along party lines, Iowa’s investment has dropped to $1,600 less per student than the national average.

In addition to ensuring our K-12 schools can make ends meet this fall, we also voted this year for:

Continuing a teacher leadership effort that is bringing the best techniques to more classrooms.

Affordable tuition, job training and skilled workforce initiatives at our community colleges.

An increase for our state universities that should allow them to continue their tuition freeze.

Need-based financial aid to help Iowans attend our private colleges.

As we set our sights on funding for the 2016-17 school year, Senate Democrats will continue to work with parents, teachers, community leaders and students to make the case for investing more in educational opportunities that help Iowans of all ages build a successful future.

—-

State Sen. Steve Sodders can be reached by calling the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise he can be reached at 641-751-4140 or via email: steve.sodders@legis.iowa.gov