School districts weigh in on 2013-2014 budget proposals - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

School districts weigh in on 2013-2014 budget proposals


From budgeting for the future, to reforming the way things work in the classroom, state lawmakers are considering several bills related to Iowa schools.

This week, the Senate passed a bill along party lines to increase funding for public schools by four percent. It's welcome news following years of cuts.

"I have four grandchildren in the district. They ask me -- why they're not going on field trips anymore, and that's just a hard fact," Superintendent at Waverly Shell Rock School District Jere Vyverberg said.

Things are tight in Iowa school districts, and frankly, many superintendents would like to know when, or if, it's going to get better.

"For a long time, four percent was standard. Things have been tougher lately," Executive Director of School and Community Relations for Waterloo Community Schools Sharon Miller said.

"Four percent would make me stand up and cheer!" Vyverberg commented.

The lack of growth for the general budget in public schools this coming year might be the most challenging.

"Never, in the history of the state have we had zero. Until this year," Democratic Sen. Brian Schoenjahn of Arlington said.

This week, Iowa Senators approved a bill to hike funding by four percent in 2013.

"State budgets are recovering a lot sooner from the national recession than other states. We've got excess reserves, and after several tough years it's time to ensure our local schools can recover as well," Schoenjahn said.

"That's why it really makes me feel good when I see the news that revenues in Iowa are increasing," Vyverberg noted. "That's promising to us, because we know it's going to help school districts in the long term."

House Republicans say, they're thinking about the long run. They're going on record saying, they're not taking up education spending until they've dealt with education reform.

"I know a couple of years ago there were over-promises made and under-delivered on the money that was supposed to go to our local school districts. One of the positions we got ourselves into was the ten percent across the board cut by the previous governor. And republicans have taken a position where we need to make sure that we know the funds are going to be there before we promise," Republican Representative Pat Grassley of New Hartford said.

Some districts are okay with waiting.

"This year is unique in terms of those policy decisions, that really are going to impact education in Iowa for many years to come. So it's worth getting those right and we understand that," Miller said.

In the meantime, districts have trimmed just about everything they can. Now, they're ready to start growing again.

According to Iowa State Code, lawmakers are required to pass an education spending bill within 30 days of the governor's budget recommendation. Technically -- that's next week. Superintendents said legislators haven't met that deadline in quite some time.

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