The Ottumwa Courier

May 24, 2013

Iowa school reform to be optional

Courier staff writer

---- — DES MOINES — State officials hope educators, students and parents soon start seeing changes in the classroom. But only if they want to.

Parts of Gov. Terry Branstad’s “blueprint for education” have been approved. But like most major issues during this legislative session, the policy changed as it passed through the halls of Iowa’s Capitol.

“What we got was an optional form of it, rather than it being mandatory,” said Rep. Larry Sheets, R-Moulton. “That’s important for rural schools that can’t afford to pay teachers [as much] as the [program] calls for.”

He said Republicans were able to keep some of their policy language that was important to them, like freedom for homeschool advocates. Rep. Curt Hanson, D-Fairfield, said it was important to ensure public schools would be able to increase their revenue.

“We’ve been starving our schools for the last several years with zero percent increases in funding,” Hanson said.

Schools had been asking for at least four percent. Some lawmakers said two percent was more likely. Sheets said a decent compromise would have been three percent. He’s comfortable enough with the new plan, which gives two percent allowable growth, plus two percent one time funds.

The Republicans, lead by Gov. Branstad, have decried “one time funds” as a danger to sound fiscal policy. But in this case, said Sheets, it really is one time money, and there’s a plan for what comes next.

“The year after, it will be four percent,” said Sheets.

To see reporter Mark Newman’s Twitter feed, go to @couriermark