OUR OPINION: Iowa schools should welcome news from Capitol

February 13, 2019

Over the last two sessions of the Legislature, majority Republicans have been branded - unfairly, we believe - anti-education by some Iowans because of funding for K-12 schools.

State money for schools wasn’t cut in 2017 or 2018, but critics didn’t view the 1.1 percent and 1 percent increases, respectively, passed in those years as big enough.

We believe those increases reflected budget realities at the time. We also believe it’s important to remember K-12 schools have received more than $700 million in new money, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, since Republicans took partial control of the Statehouse in 2011.

This fiscal year, an anticipated boost in tax revenue of 4.7 percent allows more for K-12 schools. We support a bigger increase and give credit to Republicans who appear poised to send on to Gov. Kim Reynolds what we view as a reasonable hike in funding of 2.3 percent. The House approved the increase on Monday; the Senate is expected to do the same today.

The size of increase in state aid and a decision by the Legislature early in the session should be a double dose of welcome news for school district administrators and school boards across the state as they begin crafting local budgets for next year.

Finally, we urge state lawmakers to take one additional step in support of schools and extend the one-cent sales tax for school infrastructure. The Secure an Advanced Vision for Education, or SAVE, tax is scheduled to sunset in 2029, but a 21-year extension is gaining momentum.

The benefits of the tax speak for themselves in the form of school improvements across the state. For purposes of planning and bonding for future infrastructure projects, school districts need an end to uncertainty about the tax.

Majority Republicans can provide additional evidence of their commitment to Iowa’s K-12 schools by helping push the extension across the finish line this year.

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