Okay education funding

The Iowa Legislature will set allowable growth this year at 2.25 percent meaning an additional $138 million dollars for education. This amount seems okay.

Except, that it doesn’t cover the costs of school districts like Marshalltown which will make cuts. Never mind innovating, we, as a state, cannot muster the will to fund education beyond subsistence.

Although Gov. Branstad would have us believe that educators are always asking for more money, there were some things that found funding early on in this legislative session.

Iowa, a pro-business state, saves money, according to The Iowa Policy Project, for business and industry in the following ways: An increase of $1 million to existing business tax credits saving businesses $273 million; An increase of $36 million to commercial and industrial property tax cuts saving $304 million; An additional $35 million in a new sales tax exemption for manufacturing – all told that is an increase of 13 percent for the next fiscal year. Then there is the 55 percent increase over the last five years to the Iowa’s Research Activities Credit saving millions, not to mention, the $98 million in retroactive savings through the recently passed Coupling legislation. Certainly, this will spur business and growth throughout the state. It is “okay” that business and industry ask the legislature and Governor for money in the form of savings on a perennial basis.

And okay an increase in the Supplemental State Aid costs money – roughly $138 million a year. This increase continues a 20-year trend of funding education near the cost of inflation.

But what is not “okay” is this idea that education should be run like business. Education doesn’t just lack the fiduciary chops to do so, it also lacks the legislative and gubernatorial influence. What is not “okay” is looking to business and industry leaders to “fix” education in business’s likeness. And it is certainly not “okay” to under-fund education and then ask educators to innovate by implementing un-funded mandates. The latest example of which is third grade retention for not reading at grade level, with no funding for remediation. Let Iowa be okay with its education as funded.

Finally, the governor has positioned himself as the de-funder-in-chief by defunding the Iowa Juvenile Home in Tama and two of the state’s mental health institutions, as well as using the line-item veto to cut funding from bills. Okay, okay we get it.