Funding a system in need of repair

Ronald Reagan once said, “The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.” Keeping this in mind, it is vitally important that we thoroughly examine the system that has been funding school districts in Iowa: Allowable Growth. Should we be spending additional money on a system that is admittedly in need of repair?

If we are committed to rebuilding our education system back to the top-tier status it should be, we need to focus on getting to the root of the problems before we decide to dedicate even more money to it. I think all parties can agree that Iowa’s education system falls short in some areas and everyone at the table is committed to fixing those problems. However, all this needs to be done in a fiscally responsible way.

To keep perspective on this issue, 0 percent allowable growth would provide about $3,960,500,000 aid for schools. Of that, $2,655,300,000 is state income and sales tax dollars which is an increase of $1,600,000 from FY13 estimates and about $1,360,700,000 in local property taxes, which is an increase of $49,900,000 from FY13. With that in mind, Senate Democrats released their proposal to set allowable growth at 4 percent. That would provide about $4,083,800,000 total aid to schools with $2,788,700,000 from state income and sales tax dollars, which is an increase of $134,900,000 and about $1,353,200,000 in local property taxes, which is an increase of $42,400,000 from FY13.

Their proposal would continue the practice of taking away local control from districts, demanding they meet state directives instead. These directives are part of the system that needs an overhaul. We want the best for our children and can provide that to them in the form of education if we take a step back and focus on raising student achievement levels.

While 4.0 percent allowable growth in Fiscal Year 2014 may not seem like too much to ask for, it is important to remember that the number compounds. Does it seem reasonable to provide additional revenue to maintain the status quo? For three consecutive years under Democrat control in the Legislature and under Governor Culver, schools suffered over $450 million in underfunding after being promised increases. Overpromising and under delivering hurts school districts and we need to push for responsible budgeting.

Allowable Growth negotiations are a process and as the education reform pieces start to fall into place, Iowans can rest assured that we will find solutions to things like raising student achievement levels, and enabling students to compete in a global marketplace, while remaining fiscally responsible.

As always, I want to hear from you. My senate number is (515) 281-3371 and my home number is (515) 432-7327 or write me at: State Capitol, Des Moines, IA 50319 or at my home address: 1313 Quill Avenue, Boone, IA 50036 or email me at