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Iowa students deserve more
by By Liz Mathis State Senator · February 9th, 2017

When we invest in kids, we invest in the future. So what will our future look like if we continue to shortchange our children? I knocked on your doors last summer and fall before the election and listened to you about the importance of education. You told me that was a top issue for your families and your future.

So I was disappointed when Senate Republicans on Thursday pushed through SF 166, which increases basic state funding for local schools by only 1.11 percent for the 2017-18 school year. That's even less than the 2 percent increase proposed by the Governor. The bill now goes over to the House.

I did not vote for this bill. It doesn't give our schools enough money to keep up with inflation, let alone create world-class education opportunities. Our schools have been stretched too thin for years. They are doing the best they can with limited resources, but operational costs are going up.

So for example, the difference between a 4 percent increase and a 1.1 percent increase means Linn-Mar School District would lose $1.8M in needed funding and Marion School District would lose $219,210. Under 1.1, Marion is on a budget guarantee.

Democrats offered amendments to the bill that included transportation help which rural schools need due to consolidation, extending sharing incentives to 2029 which expire in 2019 which is critical to rural schools, and offer support for low-income kids who need an extra boost. We also proposed a basic state funding increase of 2 percent for FY18 and FY19. Our GOP friends across the aisle voted down all amendments.

Last year, the Senate voted for a 4 percent increase in funding for the 2017-18 school year. Unfortunately, the House did not take up that proposal. I know we can do better for local schools than a 1.1 percent increase. Most Iowa school superintendents say they need more than a 1.1 percent increase to avoid bigger classes, teacher layoffs and cuts to learning opportunities.

After six years of historically low funding for public schools, we must listen to their concerns and take action so that our students gain the skills they need for the jobs of the future. As always, contact me at and please join me for a listening post on Saturday, Feb. 11, from 10:30 to noon at the Karma Coffee Cafe, 1725 Boyson Rd., Hiawatha, and on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., at the League of Women Voters Forum, Mercy Medical Center, Cedar Rapids.

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