A ‘serious, meaningful step forward for Iowa’s local schools’

150129_Senators Gronstal Jochum Press ConferenceFor Immediate Release:  February 3, 2015

(Des Moines) Democratic members of the Iowa Senate today announced a plan to increase state aid to schools to ensure that every Iowa child gets the best education possible and that they are prepared to compete for the jobs of the future.

The Senate Democratic plan calls for a 4 percent increase in basic state aid for Iowa schools for the school year beginning on July 1, 2015, and for the school year beginning July 1, 2016.

“Iowa’s future depends on high-quality local schools,” said Senate President Pam Jochum of Dubuque. “That’s why we support a plan that is a serious, meaningful step forward for Iowa schools.”

“Our plan would reverse Iowa’s slide downwards when you compare us to other states in terms of per student investment,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs.  “We are now 35th and falling.  Other states are investing more and achieving better results than Iowa. We must do better.”

Gronstal added: “As Senate Democrats travel the state listening to parents, students, educators and other concerned Iowans, they all tell us that the funding approved by the Republican-controlled House is not enough to keep up with the costs of providing a high-quality experience in our local classrooms. In fact, school superintendents across the state say their schools are facing larger class sizes, fewer course offerings, outdated materials, and staff layoffs.”

Jochum said the House-passed version would also raise property taxes on many Iowans, while shortchanging our best and brightest students.

“The House’s party-line vote for 1.25 percent was really a  vote to continue Iowa’s  slide even further downwards in terms of per student investment and student achievement,” Jochum said.



A sampling from school visits, phone calls, emails and other reports received by Iowa Senate Democrats in the past few weeks:


From a high school science teacher in eastern Iowa:

I hold cupboard doors closed with rulers because they won’t stay closed any more.  We have had the gas turned off in my +45 year old lab because of leak concerns, and they threaten to turn off my water in my lab because of leaks into the downstairs lab.  My books for biology were copyrighted in 2000 and our classroom computers are going on 4 years old. My class sizes of 25 or more are not conducive to inquiry.


From teachers and administrators in Newton

The Middle School no longer has Industrial Arts: no student is taught metals, woods or plastics unless they meet the criteria to go to the Career Academy at DMACC.  A 1.25% increase = $191,000 in “new money.” That leaves a shortfall of $382,000.  This shortfall is proposed to be covered by a $0.375 increase in school property tax levy through the budget guarantee.

From an elementary school teacher in Waukee

The teacher-pupil ratio in my building’s kindergarten classes is 26 to 1 because we can’t afford to hire additional teachers. I know many of you in this room believe the teacher-pupil ratio is much less, but it is not. Our teacher pupil ratio is not ideal.

Twenty different languages are spoken in our building. Several students who attend our school are refugees. They are new comers who know little to no English. Teachers overcome these hurdles in addition to teaching their curriculum and make sure all their students receive the love, attention, and differentiated instruction they deserve. Quite simply, we need more teachers, but there is no money to hire additional staff.

From an elementary teacher in Cedar Rapids

I have been in the classroom for more than 14 years and due to budget cuts over the last few years, my class sizes have been between 25 to 28 students. During the 2011-12 school year, I had 35 fourth graders in my classroom. I’d like you all to imagine 35 fourth graders in a classroom. We are all packed like sardines in this hearing room tonight. Imagine that this is what it feels like in a classroom with 35 students only we are together, every single day, trying to learn

From a Northwest Iowa Superintendent

We need 6% for no cuts, 4% minimum…If the current House’s proposal passes we will be looking to cut an amount equal to 4.7 teachers in FY 17. This is not acceptable.
From Superintendent Mary Jo Hainstock, Vinton-Shellsburg


Our students deserve better and more than Governor Branstad has recommended. The spending per student is well below the national average and, if the recommendation is followed, we would be on a trajectory to be part of the lowest 20% in the nation.  If we want our state to remain economically viable, we need to prepare our students for their futures.  We need adequate resources to do this


From Superintendent Dan Maeder, Davis County Community School District


Fund education like you want Iowa to lead the nation once again.



From a Central Iowa School Board member


As a school that is just getting our financial feet under us cash-wise, a 1.25% SSA increase would deal a hefty blow as it does not give us the spending authority we need to run our school.  Without it, we are looking at possible staff reductions, maybe even program reductions, when we thought we cut as far as we could a couple of years ago.  Our students deserve better.


One of Governor Branstad’s main goals (as listed on his website) is having the best schools in the nation.  The duties and expectations put upon our staff continue to increase every year to reach this goal, however, Iowa continues to fall in educational funding per student (currently 35th)!  I realize that just throwing money into something won’t make it better, but actions speak louder than words.  If the state is not willing to invest in our schools (and continue to invest less than most other states), they will never end up anywhere near the top of the list.



From a North Iowa School Board member

The amount of SSA that is suggested in these initial proposals (from the House and Governor) will not cover the increased costs of doing business, and will most likely lead to teaching positions being reduced, and programs for our students being reduced, as well as a possible increase in property taxes.

The governor and the legislature have been preaching “World Class Schools” for the last several years. How are we to develop “World Class Schools” in Iowa when we continue to underfund K-12 education. The state is asking us to provide “Cadillac” education while funding us at “Yugo” prices.


From a Central Iowa School Superintendent

The State of Iowa must end the current trend of underfunding our schools.  Over the last 14 years school funding has been reduced by 17% due to across the board cuts, eliminated funding for technology, and reduced dropout prevention funds.  Currently the State of Iowa’s per pupil spending ranks 35th in the nation spending $1612 less per pupil than the rest of the nation.  This is not acceptable, how will Iowa’s Schools be able to provide a world class education with third world funding?


From an Eastern Iowa teacher

Right now I am asking you to help with an urgent matter that impacts us all: funding for public education. House File 80 sets Supplemental School Aid at 1.25%. That is an inadequate amount and would result in overcrowded classrooms, outdated textbooks, fired teachers, etc. Most school districts need at least 4% to avoid budget reductions, maintain an adequate unspent balance, and offer innovative education opportunities. In fact, districts need 6% to allow schools to do innovative work at a more rapid pace. So please invest in our schools and children.

As an Iowan, I want us to have some of the best schools in the nation.

As a parent, I want my children to gain an excellent education that prepares them to be productive citizens.

As a teacher, I want my students to have innovative, research-based resources that will empower them to be competitive in college and the job market.


Posted Feb. 3rd, 2015 at 11:13 am by
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