The Education Reform debate continued the week before last, seeing minor movement from the Senate and a response from the House, but nothing since Thursday, April 18.

A quick recap: The House passed House File 215 on Feb. 20, sending it to the Senate. The bill sat idle in the Senate until April 2, when it passed out of committee and off the Senate Floor on April 3. It was sent to conference committee the next day, 43 days after it passed the House.

The House offered a compromise two weeks ago, coming up to the Senate’s allowable growth number offering 2 percent, plus a 2 percent one-time payment in FY14 and 4 percent in FY15. In return, the House asked the Senate to accept the House’s policy language, language which had the support of 45 groups interested in education, including nearly every major education association.

The Senate spent a week bashing the House proposal before finally offering a counter proposal last Thursday. It accepted the House’s idea on allowable growth, but required the House to make a $30 million a year block grant permanent and accept all of the Senate’s language on the leadership ladder plan, throwing overboard every home school and private school provision.

The House offered a response within hours, agreeing to a two-year extension of the block grant (to line up with the two-year budgeting cycle) and insisting on the House’s ladder program and the other provisions in House File 215. There has been no response from the Senate on that proposal.

The House has moved to the Senate’s numbers on allowable growth and has agreed to continue funding the block grant program. The Senate has yet to give ground on any policy issues. House Republicans have made good faith proposals showing we are willing to work and meet on some issues.

What should not be compromised, however, is sticking to the House’s leadership pathway plan, a plan that was given to the legislature by a Task Force that the legislature put together last year to study the issue. It’s a plan that is in place effectively in other parts of the country, a plan that the federal government has issued grants to further implement around the country, and a plan that was put together by a broad coalition of education stakeholders over the summer last year.

Additionally, the House should not compromise on including home school and private school families and students in education reform. They have asked for reasonable efforts to be a part of this reform initiative and the House has responded accordingly.

And finally, what cannot be compromised is investing over $400 million new dollars into Iowa’s education system without ensuring accountability and results. House File 215 provides those.

Senate Surpasses Their Own Budget Targets

In February, House Republicans and Senate Democrats each released their budget targets. At that time, Senate Democrats proposed spending $6.9 billion in Fiscal Year 2014 ($487 million more than House Republicans). The Senate proposal spends $1.05 for every dollar of state revenue.

By contrast, the House Republican budget spends 98 cents for every dollar of state revenue. The Fiscal Year 2014 proposal by House Republicans spends $6.4139 billion. This is a 3 percent increase over last year’s spending level, and it protects priority services in the areas of education, health and human services and public safety.

The Senate budget represents nearly an 11 percent increase over last year. If signed into law, state revenues would need to grow at 6.3 percent just to maintain their level spending (anything less would likely result in future cuts). Over the last 20 years, state revenues have grown at an average of 3.4 percent per year.

As budgets have been working through the legislative process over the past few weeks, it has become clear that Senate Democrats have already SURPASSED their own unsustainable budget targets.

The budgets that passed the Senate have spent nearly $47 million MORE than what their initial targets laid out. These changes have raised the amount of the Senate’s budget to an 11.6 percent increase in state General Fund spending over last year’s level, and they still have not acted on the Standings bill (this bill is usually near half the state budget).

These budgets are very similar to the budgets that former Gov. Culver implemented in FY08 and 09, which were followed by his 10 percent across-the-board cut. This is quite different from last session, when Senate Democrats made an effort to spend less than the state collects. They are capable of putting together and approving a reasonable and sustainable plan. It appears they simply have chosen to do the opposite this session.

The House Republican’s budget sticks to the principles we used to get the state’s fiscal house in order:

• Do not spend more money than the state takes in

• Do not use one-time money to pay for ongoing expenses

• Do not intentionally underfund entitlement programs to balance the state’s budget

• Return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me. Home phone: 515-382-2352; E-mail: Dave.Deyoe@legis.iowa.gov.