Education Debate Heats Up…Quoting Joe Biden

One of the biggest issues every session is how much additional funding to allocate for Iowa’s K-12 schools. The debate centers on what percentage to increase education funding known as Supplemental State Aid.

This year House Republicans have proposed increasing K-12 spending by 1.25% for 2016 and 2.45% for 2017. Senate Democrats have proposed raising this level by 4% for 2016 and then another 4% for 2017.  Though only a few percentage points apart, the massive sum of money involved results in a difference of hundreds of millions of dollars per year.  The 1.25% increase proposed by the House Republicans is not only a significant increase of about $100 million, but it is sustainable.

The legislature has a long history of making promises it cannot keep. Since 2002, the Legislature (with both Republicans and Democrats in control) has not fulfilled their promise to local school boards six times! When the legislature does not fulfill its promise, the local school board raises property taxes to make up the difference. This has resulted in a property tax increase to the tune of over $600 million statewide! I will not vote for an amount that will overpromise our schools and cause a severe property tax increase to the people of District 19.

Democrats argue that we do not consider education a priority. Vice President Joe Biden is fond of saying…“don’t tell me what your priorities are—show me your budget and I’ll tell you what they are.” I agree. The following facts prove that, by any objective measure, we most certainly place education as our highest priority.

Of Iowa’s entire $7 billion dollar budget, about 40% is spent on K-12 education alone.  In total, almost 60% of our yearly expenditures are dedicated to education.  This means that for every single dollar collected from Iowans and spent each year, about $.40 is spent on education. The total dollar amount spent in 2015 will be a staggering $2.9 billion, which works out to about $6,300 per student.  Keep in mind that these figures are only the state dollars spent on education and do not even include federal money and local property tax money. In sum, we spend over $11,000 per student for education. Education is clearly a priority for all of us in the legislature.

Perhaps even more remarkable than these numbers is the fiscal mess that would result from the Democrats plan of increasing our education spending 8% over the next two years.  The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency has reported that if this were enacted, we would spend our entire surplus amount and face a $75 million shortfall in 2016. Even worse, we would have a deficit of $515 million in 2017. This is completely unacceptable, gravely irresponsible, and fiscally dangerous.

I am committed to passing an amount that fits into a balanced budget and is sustainable for the long term. I refuse to pass an increase that will be underfunded and result in a property tax increase to the people of Ankeny, Alleman and Des Moines. As always, feel free to contact me at jack@jackwhitver.com.

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