One of the first topics discussed at the beginning of every legislative session is the amount of funding for Iowa K-12 schools. Much of that discussion revolves around the undefined phrase “fully funding education.” However, no dollar amount defines that phrase.
The common-sense way to define this term is this: The state keeps the promises it made during the budgeting process in January for that fiscal year. Students, teacher, administrators, and property taxpayers all depend on the state fully funding the promises it makes.
Since taking over the majority in 2017, Senate Republicans have fully funded every dollar we have promised to K-12 education. Over the last three budgets, $263.75 million was promised to K-12 schools. Those schools received every last dollar, every promise was kept, and not a single cut has been made over the last three years. Additionally, millions of dollars more have been allocated for concurrent enrollment and to address inequities in both per pupil and transportation funding above and beyond those increases to the formula funding.
In fact, the last time K-12 education was cut was when Chet Culver was governor and Democrats controlled both branches of the Iowa Legislature. Schools were promised $393.9 million over four years, only to have those promises underfunded by a total of $459 million. Not only were the promises of increased funding not kept, but education spending was actually cut by $65 million.
In the coming weeks expect to hear a lot of noise about cutting and fully funding education. However, one certainty will remain, Senate Republicans will continue to make reliable and sustainable promises to Iowa schools and those promises will be kept.