One of the greatest moments in my day is taking my children to school. It is a great feeling to see the excitement in their eyes and hear the enthusiasm in their voices. As a parent, I fully understand the value of our children receiving a quality education. When Rachel and I decided to start our family, we knew we wanted to stay in Iowa to be close to our families and so our children could be afforded the same quality education we received.
Ensuring our children receive a world class education is one of the many reasons I chose to run for the Iowa Senate. It remains one of the top priorities of mine and my Senate Republican colleagues. Look no further than the state budget to demonstrate this commitment.
As former Vice President Joe Biden is known to say, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget and I will tell you what you value.” Nearly 56 percent of the entire state of Iowa budget is allocated to education spending. To put that percentage into dollars, $4.1 billion of our $7.35 billion budget goes to educate our preschool, elementary, junior high, high school, junior college and college students.
Despite working with limited resources in budgeting for the 2017-2018 Fiscal Year, Senate Republicans support adding $40 million in new K-12 education spending.
It is imperative we provide a reasonable and sustainable funding level for our schools. Our young people and educators must know the resources the state provides on an annual basis are reliable and in place to meet their payrolls, teaching and transportation needs. If we were to promise more money and then fail to honor our commitments, this would be devastating to our schools and students. This is just not acceptable.
There is some misperception that Republicans are cutting education funding. This is simply not true. Let me repeat, our plan adds $40 million in new spending to K-12 education. During my time in the Iowa Senate, we have increased school aid spending by $470 million in new money between FY 2012-2017. In addition, last year, more than 75 percent of the new available revenue to spend went to K-12 education.
This week the first bill I signed in my duties as Senate President was legislation de-appropriating $118 million. We made a conscious decision to hold education harmless in that bill. While that was extremely important to our local schools, it leaves many of the other essential areas of state government in a tough position. Our budget shows the value we place in education, but we also have to be mindful of the value of other parts of state government.
In addition to the $40 million in new state aid, I am going to continue to work to give local school boards more control over the money we allocate to them. I believe the local boards need more control because not every district is the same. The needs of Ankeny are different than the needs of a rural school district, and how the money is spent should be decided by local residents. It is my hope that we can cut some of the strings attached to the state money and give school boards the ability to do what is best for their particular district.
When we began the legislative session, the new Senate Republican majority announced its intentions to vote on education as early as possible so schools can move forward, set their budgets and conduct their primary business, educating our children. I am proud we fulfilled that promise to set a school funding amount within the first 30 days of session.