‘The future of our country’Funding increase for education in the coming year discussed at the second legislative briefing
Two area superintendents were present at the monthly legislative briefing Saturday morning to encourage state officials to give school funding a proposed 4 percent increase during the coming year.
During the meeting, Sen. Sandra Greiner said that the Senate had passed a bill allowing 4 percent allowable growth to the schools, but the House of Representatives had passed a 2 percent allowable growth. She predicts that next year, the schools will see a 3 percent allowable growth at the end of the discussion.
“Education is the future of our country,” said audience member Robert Spenner. “We need people who know what is going on setting the policy.”
The briefings are held once a month while the state Legislature is in session to give constituents a chance to ask questions or make comments to area legislators. The next briefing will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on March 16 in the Washington County Courthouse.
During the meeting Superintendent Mike Jorgensen of Washington Schools and Superintendent Chris Armstrong of Highland Schools both attended to advocate for a 4 percent allowable growth during the coming year. Many other audience members, including many teachers, also advocated for the allowable growth.
Jorgensen said that a 2 percent allowable growth increase would not even cover health care increases. He also commented that a bill being considered to require school buses to have motion sensors is “another unfunded mandate.”
During the discussion, Sen. Rich Taylor called education “ the single most important thing going on.” Rep. Dave Heaton also discussed education. Rep. Jarad Klein said there is cause for question and concern.
Klein said that during discussion in Des Moines, the House can become a “logic-free environment” regarding rural school districts. He said many mandates make state education funding even more unfair to smaller districts.
Heaton questioned Washington County Treasurer Jeff Garrett about a new policy in which the state would issue license plates. Garrett said that the state reports there will be a $9 million savings, but he does not know how that will happen.
Dick Gallagher asked the legislators their feelings on road use tax increases. Greiner said she was opposed, saying that Washington drivers would be taxed so a new beltway could be built in Des Moines. Klein said that definite issues in infrastructure had not been identified prior to funding being requested.
Both Mark Knupp and Richard Gilmore spoke about excess revenue collection from the state and how it could be used. Klein said that in spending extra money, legislators had to remember that it is one-time funding.
Other people were at the briefing to advocate for area groups. Tasha Beghtol advocated for early childhood development money, which she said had lowered 42 percent in the last few years. Susan Wellington advocated for adult day care. Washington County Attorney Larry Brock and local attorney Patricia Lipsky discussed a bill relating to payments to the indigent defense fund by the state public defender.