The next few years won’t be a good time to be a public school student in the U.S. generally or in Iowa specifically. Betsy DeVos is likely to be confirmed as secretary of education, despite bombing in her confirmation hearing, where she dodged some important questions and revealed shocking ignorance about basic education policy matters. Only two GOP senators say they will vote against the billionaire, who has given generously to Republican candidates and causes and worked to undermine public schools for decades.
Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have yet not published statements about DeVos, but I enclose below comments confirming they will support her nomination.
Meanwhile, in a party-line vote on February 2, Iowa Senate Republicans approved a bill to increase state funding for K-12 school districts by just 1.11 percent for the year beginning on July 1. Under state law, the Iowa House and Senate should have set school funding for fiscal year 2018 more than a year ago. However, statehouse Republicans have refused to follow that law for the past several years. Last year was no exception: despite action by Iowa Senate Democrats, House Republicans did not vote on fiscal year 2018 “allowable growth” (now officially known as “supplemental state aid”) during the 2016 legislative session.
If Senate File 166 is approved by the Iowa House and signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad, next year’s 1.11 percent growth in K-12 funding would be the third-smallest increase in more than 40 years. I enclose below a chart showing allowable growth levels approved by the state legislature since 1973. Branstad requested 2 percent more funding for K-12 schools in his draft budget. To my knowledge, the governor has not said whether he would sign Senate File 166 in its current form.
Recruiting and retaining educators to work in Iowa may become a lot more difficult after Republicans destroy collective bargaining rights for public employees, including thousands of teachers. House and Senate leaders have indicated that they will make the first significant changes in Iowa Code Chapter 20 since 1974. Details about the plan have been hidden from public view up to now, but a bill on collective bargaining is expected to appear on the state legislature’s website on February 6.
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