Iowa teachers union seeks increase in state aid to schools

DES MOINES – The state teachers’ union called Wednesday for lawmakers to approve legislation that would increase state aid to school districts for the coming school year.

A staffer for the Iowa State Education Association told senators at a subcommittee meeting that one rural district would likely have to layoff teachers if lawmakers don’t increase aid to schools.

“We’ve heard anecdotal evidence from one rural district that if allowable growth were set at zero, it would see a 13 percent layoff,” said Melissa Peterson, a government relations staffer.

Democratic lawmakers have proposed a 4 percent increase in state support to school districts, putting them in conflict with Gov. Terry Branstad. The governor is pushing for quick passage of his own changes to Iowa’s education system before discussing general school funding.

Branstad has unveiled an education plan that would boost starting teacher salaries, add incentive pay for educators and make other changes. The package would cost $187 million over five years.

The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to vote on their school funding plan next week. Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House have said they will take up the governor’s plan first, or at the same time as school funding.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach D-Ames, the chairman of the Senate education committee, said a delay to funding could damage districts.

“The impact of doing nothing can be pretty catastrophic,” said Quirmbach.