Visitors this Week
I met with 5th grade students from Lincoln Elementary in Cedar Falls at the Capitol this week. I gave them a special tour of the House and answered their questions during the visit.
Is There an End in Sight?
Below is a chart of all our primary budget bills and their status. As you can see, only two have been passed. The rest, excluding the Standings bill, are in what’s called a conference committee. This is where members of both houses, assigned by Speaker of the House and the Majority leader in the Senate, come to a compromised conclusion of the specific bill and then move it to both Houses. There is one problem. The leaders of both chambers have not come to a compromise on two big budget numbers; the overall general fund appropriated limit, and the supplemental state aid to education.
All session long, I have been reiterating how I will not vote for a general fund budget (essentially our ongoing operating costs to run the state) that spends more than our revenue taken in. This is a republican principle that we have held firm to since I was elected in 2010. In 2013 we did do something different with education funding where we increased Supplemental State Aid by 2% and also used 2% of one-time funding monies to help fund critical needs in education. This was only one time money and was not added to the overall base of education funding. We have very little ending balance money to do this with for next year. Revenue projections nationally and in the state are grim and we must sustain a decent ending balance to prepare for a lower than expected state income. Negotiations are ongoing with the leaders as to the potential remedies of the budget impasse.
Budget Statuses – May 20, 2015
The State Board of Education met last week to discuss a number of issues. One of the more controversial items on the agenda was a look at Iowa’s Science Standards. In April the team tasked with reviewing those standards issued a set of recommendations for revamping them after a 6-month review. The Board’s action was to hold off on making a final decision until after the review team provides a formalized report detailing its recommendations, which is due later this spring.
The 19-member committee issued a recommendation last month to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, with modifications, as Iowa’s new Science standards. This recommendation followed months of meetings, a road trip convening a series of 4 public meetings around the state in February to gather public feedback, and combing through roughly 2,600 public comments received through an online survey.
The State Board has authority through statute to set Iowa’s academic standards. Last year the House passed HF 2439 which would have prevented the Department and State Board from making any changes to Iowa’s academic standards until it presented those proposed changes either in an annual report to the legislature or to the House and Senate Education Committees. It failed in the Senate after having passed the House 96-0.
To read the Next Generation Science Standards, visit http://www.nextgenscience.org.
To read Iowa’s academic standards, visit https://iowacore.gov.
For more information about the Science Standards Review Team, visit the Iowa Department of Education’s website: https://www.educateiowa.gov/resources/boardscommissions-committees-councils-andtask-forces/iowa-core-science-standardsreview-team.
House Committee Passes FY17 School Funding
The House Appropriations Committee this week passed a school funding bill for Fiscal Year 2017, for the 2016/17 school year. Current law requires the legislature set, and the Governor sign, a school funding increase for FY17 by early February. The deadline was missed as the House and Senate are still at an impasse on FY16 school funding.
The bill passed by the House committee sets Supplemental State Aid (SSA) at 2%. This is an increase of $125.2 million. Added to the 1.25% proposal for FY16, which is currently in conference committee, this is a total proposed increase of $225 million over 2 years. Included in this figure is $100 million ($50 over 2 years) for the new Teacher Leadership Compensation (TLC) system.
The difficulty with setting SSA at this point is the uncertainty about FY17 revenues. At this point the legislature won’t see any revenue estimates for FY17 until October, meaning this commitment of $125 million is a move of good faith that Iowa will see revenues that can support such an increase and that Republicans fully intend to stand by this commitment.