Senate passes supplemental state aid package for K12 schools

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The Iowa Senate passed Senate File 2142 on Wednesday, which was the supplemental state aid bill. The bill, which came back over from the House, adjusts the rate of supplemental state aid to 2.3 percent and represents an increase of $168 per student across Iowa.

The debate started with a testy exchange from Sen. Claire Celsi (D-West Des Moines), who asked what took Republicans so long.

After a discussion at the well, Celsi returned and was more clear in her question. She pointed out that state law says the supplemental state aid bill needs to be done before now and it’s about 20 days late.

“Republicans control the House, the Senate and the Governor’s office,” Celsi said. “And I just wondered, what took so long to come to an obvious agreement of 2.3 percent, which was dead center in the middle.”

Sen. Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton) said the alternative is not increasing supplemental state aid at all, but said nobody in the chamber would like that. She told Celsi there was a negotiation process and the Senate was waiting for a response.

Sen. Herm Quirmbach (D-Ames) followed Celsi’s criticisms by pointing out the bill was beyond its deadline. He also said the Republicans never promised to keep per-pupil spending up with inflation.

“They promised tax cuts for the rich,” Quirmbach said. “And that’s the promise on which they delivered.”

Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) criticized Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“Am I the only person in this building who is just shocked at what a weak leader Gov. Reynolds is, that she can’t even get a Republican majority to go along with a 2.5 percent increase,” Hogg said. “Where is she? She can’t get 2.5 percent done?”

Sinclair wrapped up debate by calling it the most confusing debate she’s been a part of.

“I heard that our budget has a surplus surplus from Sen. Quirmbach and then I heard that we’re facing a recession and probably can’t even live up to the 2.3 from Sen. (Bill) Dotzler,” she said. “So, I’m not sure. That’s confusing to me.”

Sinclair said she heard from Sen. Celsi and Sen. Quirmbach that Iowa teachers are doing a terrible job in preparing our kids because they can’t get good scores on the ACT, but Sen. Jackie Smith (D-Sioux City) said the teachers are perfect and we just destroyed their opportunities with collective bargaining.

“I don’t know if it’s money or teachers or poverty or parents, I don’t know if it’s STEM,” Sinclair said. “This has been the most confusing debate I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I didn’t intend to get up and give another history lesson today, nor did I intend to stand here and have to listen to my colleagues attack teachers over setting supplemental state aid. But that’s what I heard today. And so, let’s do it. Let’s go back to the history lesson guys.”

Sinclair said the Democrats promised the 6-foot high jump that Sen. Quirmbach talked about earlier in debate and delivered not a 6-inch jump, but Democrats dug a ditch.

“You dug a ditch,” she said. “A $459 million ditch. You dug a ditch, not a 6-inch jump. Maybe what I’m promising today isn’t what you would prefer. Maybe it isn’t, I don’t know. Clearly it’s not because I got the most confusing debate I’ve ever had. But here’s what I’m doing, I’m promising to deliver funding for K12 — 2.3 percent.”

Sinclair said inflation over the last decade has been about 19 percent while funding to K12 schools has been about 34 percent.

Sinclair talked about education problems that faced the Senate years ago. She talked about transportation equity and cost per pupil equity.

“I sat in the minority for four years while those were issues, I wasn’t in charge of it and nothing got done,” Sinclair said. “This caucus took control of the Senate four years ago and do you know what happened, we solved that problem, signed by the Governor. That’s how you deliver for education.”

Collective bargaining hasn’t been mentioned to Sinclair from teachers.

“They have told me getting beaten up by their students is the problem,” Sinclair said. “We saw that problem and we’ve got a bill in the House working to fix it. You see problems and you fix problems and that’s how you deliver for education. That’s how you do it right. You don’t dig a ditch promising the moon and the stars and deliver zero and negative.”

Sinclair said she is proud of what the Senate has done since Republicans took control.

Republicans will have delivered over $300 million to K12 schools in the last four years with what they’re passing this year. And, she said, that doesn’t speak to the transportation equity. It doesn’t deal with classroom behavior.

“You don’t rob them of $459 million,” she said. “I can’t even do the $10 million because it’s so much more than that that you stole from them. That you put on the backs of the property taxpayers who are the parents of these children.”

Author: Jacob Hall