April 22, 2024

Gridlock does not fund schools

We are now one week from the 110th day of the 2015 legislative session.  That is the day we are scheduled to adjourn for the year.  However, it won't happen next week.  In fact, we may be here for a while.  Why?  Washington style gridlock has taken hold of school funding negotiations between legislative leaders in both chambers and the governor.  Kids educations are being used as political bargaining chips, and it's wrong.

This is where partisan politics becomes a serious detriment.  I'm proud to be a Democrat.   I'm also proud to work with my colleagues across the aisle.  Democrats and Republicans actually agree on the majority of the bills and many of the issues we consider.  Still, there are issues where we will likely never see eye-to-eye.  But when it comes to education and school funding, we need to put party politics aside, and stand together for kids.

The negotiations revolve around a single number.  That number is called 'allowable growth.'  It's the percentage the legislature and governor must set every year.  This percentage tells local school boards how much they are allowed to adjust their budget for inflationary purposes.  I've supported a series of compromise offers made in good faith.  However, house majority leaders haven't moved at all and still insist on 1.25 percent.

While the house majority party claims the state can't afford more than that, it just isn't true.

Here are the facts, while there's always room to reduce spending and make improvements to the budget, the state is not in debt and our budget is balanced with money in the bank.  According to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, we can provide a reasonable increase in state supplemental aid for schools, keep our state savings accounts full at over $700 million, end the year with a surplus, and follow our balanced budget law. Washington style gridlock has no place in Iowa.  Leaders in both chambers and the governor need to end the uncertainty and put kids first.

One of the top priorities for lawmakers this year is expanding access to broadband and WI-FI for homes, schools, and businesses in under-served and un-served areas, especially in rural Iowa.   Rural schools need better access to broadband to help prepare students for higher education or a skilled job after graduation. Statistics also show that students with access to broadband at home are 6-8 percent more likely to graduate.

Iowa businesses also rely on high-speed internet to be successful and open new markets.  The Internet has opened up new customer bases for small businesses in rural Iowa.  Revenue for Iowa businesses from online sales total more than $20 billion each year, and in 2014, 81 percent of Iowa businesses had adopted broadband.  With the loss of many manufacturing and other non-farm jobs in rural Iowa, we can't afford to dismiss the proven value l of the Internet to rural economic growth.  That's why the Legislature approved a bill this week, I supported, to remove barriers and expand broadband access to more homes, schools and businesses.

Feel free to call  me at home, anytime with questions, concerns, or suggestions for Jasper County.  Our comeback belongs to all of us.  You can reach me at 641-521-9260 or dan.kelley@legis.iowa.gov.  Check out my website at www.ElectKelley.com.