Superintendents nervous: Iowa school budgets hinge on lawmakers - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Superintendents nervous: Iowa schools' budgets hinge on lawmakers

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Governor Branstad's proposed education reform is not going without controversy.

Earlier this month, when he unveiled his education reform package, Branstad insisted lawmakers pass it before they set what's called allowable growth, or the percentage a school district can let its budget grow from year to year.

Monday afternoon, Democrats in the Iowa Senate and House released the findings of a survey of the state's school district superintendents. 73 percent of the respondents said they would increase class sizes if lawmakers did not act soon on allowable growth - or if they set it at zero percent.

In order for a school district to thrive, Dubuque school board president Mike Donohue said, there has to be room for its budget to grow from one year to the next.

"Zero percent really isn't an option for education," Donohue said in an interview Monday. "We believe that there are resources to be able to pass allowable growth - reasonable allowable growth - of four percent we think, at minimum, that allows us to go ahead and start our work in terms of creating a budget for the 13-14 school year."

Branstad wants lawmakers to pass his education reforms before they take up the question of allowable growth - a move that breeds uncertainty, Donohue said.

"We have to have our budgets submitted to the state by April 15th. We also have to let teachers know - and staff know - exactly their disposition for next year by April 30th," Donohue said. "Every day, every week that goes by, it shortens that time period."

In an e-mailed response Monday, Branstad's director of communication Tim Albrecht said, "Iowa parents deserve meaningful reform that restores Iowa's leadership position in education. House and Senate leaders should act quickly on these broad, bipartisan reforms before devoting another dollar to a system that has trapped our kids in the middle of the pack. The governor looks forward to working with the House and Senate to meet this goal."

Until that goal is met, districts statewide wait for a decision from lawmakers and go without legislative guidance for setting their budgets.

Senate Democrats have gone ahead and proposed a four percent allowable growth.

Many of the aims in Branstad's education reform package both Democrats and Republicans are open to considering. However, this delay in providing school districts with an allowable growth percentage for their upcoming school years' budgets is one that is generally dividing the right and the left.

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