Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Do the Democrats mean what they say about increasing school aid?

I’m still mystified by the decision of the state teachers’ union president, Tammy Wawro, to support the task force’s recommendation that Iowa adopt the very expensive Smarter Balanced standardized tests. Judging from her Twitter feed, Wawro is an enthusiastic advocate of a 6% increase in supplemental school aid. Is she in complete denial about cause and effect? Adopt Smarter Balanced and you’ll kill any chance of decent supplemental aid for years. Does her left hand have any idea what her right hand is doing?

I’m beginning to worry that the state Democratic Party may be just as obtuse. Democratic legislators are united about the need for more supplemental aid. Yet how many have come out against Smarter Balanced?

At least eleven House Republicans are publicly against Smarter Balanced, which means it cannot pass without Democratic support. The single best thing the Democrats could do for future school aid is to vote this turkey down. If they don’t, all their noise about wanting a 6% increase is empty lip service.

My bad dream is that the Democrats declare a “win” by caving on Smarter Balanced in exchange for a slightly higher increase in aid for next year. They can’t be that lame, can they? Can they?


Matt Townsley said...

I follow the assertion 6% (or even 4%) is less likely given any additional costs needed for Smarter Balanced Assessments, however I'm not sure this is way our politicians may always think!

For example, were legislators (bi-partisan, if I remember correctly) last year thinking, "if we approve the teacher leadership and compensation system, this may mean less supplemental state aid" or something along those lines? Personally, I don't think they were. I think some saw these two as separate entities. In other words, some may have wanted both, just as some may want lower commercial property taxes AND more funding for schools. I think for some legislators, it comes down to priorities. Is there another area of our state's budget a given legislator would like to see a decrease in funding so that education could receive more money? I'm guessing so.

Speaking of money and priorities, it is pretty well known our state has a hefty rainy day fund right now. Maybe a question we should be asking our legislators right now is "Do you believe our educational system could benefit from some rain?" :)

michael woltman said...

The current administration will not draw down the rainy day funds like the Culver adminstration.
The rainy day funds are for unanticipated revenue shortfalls and are to be replenished when revenues increase. Revenue to the state has been increasing, thus the increasing size of the rainy day funds. The size of the fund may be debated but they are needed because of the State constitution.
The State constitution prohibits spending more than we get in taxes.
I agree we could stop filling the funds but ongoing needs should be funded from current revenue and the rainy day funds should be use for their intended purpose.
The gas tax should help a little since general funds were being used pay for roads. The constitutional protection of the road use fund should result in more of the DOT budget being gas tax funded, leaving more income tax revenue in the general fund for education.

Chris said...

Matt and Michael -- Thanks for the comments. Matt, I'm not sure our politicians think that way, either -- that's what has me worried. But you might as well say, "I'm not sure our legislators think about the consequences of their actions." It's their job!

It's not enough for a legislator (or Wawro) to say, "Well, if it were up to me, I'd adopt the SBAC *and* give a 6% aid increase, and cut ____ instead." The fact is, that's not what's going to happen, and they know it.

I don't know enough about how the rainy day fund works to comment on that -- thanks, Michael, for the information about it. Even if we could use that money, I certainly wouldn't throw it away on SBAC.