Education funding for Iowa’s public K-12 system takes center stage at the capitol this week. Lawmakers are off Monday for the Iowa mid-term caucuses. IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell has her eye on some other issues.
Basic state aid to schools has been hotly contested, this year is no exception. There have been times when a 4 percent increase in basic state aid was common but not in recent years. This year, it will be between the Republican legislature’s recommendation of 1 percent and the governor’s 1.5 percent. “Democrats say that would make the 4th year in a row when the increase didn’t cover the cost of inflation,” Russell says.
Democrats say revenue isn’t coming up short, it’s projected. That number is a 4 percent increase in revenues next year and revenues are still growing. They say schools should get more than what Republicans are suggesting. Republicans disagree. “Frankly, the signal to schools that we had been sending before was that the budget is not pretty and you should expect zero,” says Republican Education Committee Chair Sen. Amy Sinclair. “I would say this should tell (schools) that we prioritize them.”
The fallout with the Iowa Communications Network will spill into the election. Former ICN Executive Director Rick Lombard was fired after a state audit revealed thousands of dollars in unauthorized spending. The House Oversight Committee has taken upon itself to hold hearings on the case. There has been criticism aimed at State Auditor Mary Mosiman. Expect to see her Democratic opponent, Rob Sand, use this against her in 2018. Sand says Mosiman was slow to respond to clues of cronyism at the ICN.
Racial profiling and needle exchanges will get attention this week. There are bills in subcommittees, where lawmakers hear from the public, to ban racial profiling and another one to legalize needle exchanges for drug addicts.