Iowa state lawmakers tend to lack the political will to change outdated student funding formula

Repubicans and Democrats agree there's a need, but not on solutions

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. - Iowa's heading into a legislative session where the Republicans will basically own all of it. We start to see the stage getting set for the next race for Iowa's governor. And,the frustration mounts surrounding the Davenport School District's finances.

It continues to be highlighted by Superintendent Art Tate's quixotic attempts to break state law and use reserve money to run the district.

A recent op-ed piece published in both the Des Moines Register and the Quad City Times comes to Art Tate's defense called 'Art Tate is Right.'

"Despite the fact that many in the legislature support the concept of local control, state law makes it illegal for a school board to vote to use its reserve funds to keep classroom sizes low," the column states.

"And because of this antiquated law, the state may force a very competent and strong superintendent out of a job," the column states.

The key point compares Tate's fight to the homeschooling battle fought in Iowa years ago.

"Sometimes it takes a little civil disobedience to make a point and change the law," the column states.

That opinion piece was written by Steve Grubbs, former Iowa Republican Party chair.

Grubbs and current Scott County Democratic Party Chair Thom Hart discussed the issue during an appearance on 4 the Record.

Grubbs verbalized what a lot of people around the Quad Cities are thinking -- Republican and Democrat.

Democratic Representative Cindy Winckler proposed legislation to allow this kind of local control in the past.

It died.

The state's Budget Review Committee rejected Art Tate out of hand in December saying it didn't want to set a precedent.

Grubbs argues that a precedent is exactly what this needs, yet decision makers aren't getting this message.

Grubbs says the 50-year old formula is something that gets brought up virtually every year and while there is a lot of support to change it, that typically doesn't provide enough momentum of political will to get anything done.

Hart agrees and says the formula has been tinkered with so much over the years that it's time to throw it out and start over altogether.

Governor Terry Branstad's looming departure to be the U.S. ambassador to China opens the door to an interesting race for his job in two years.

His handpicked successor, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, is likely to face at least one primary challenger in the form of Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett.

Democrats are also licking their chops at trying to mount a strong contender for the job.

Grubbs says a primary process will be good for the party even though some politicians don't think so.

Both Grubbs and Hart mentioned possible candidates who could be on the ballot in two years.

 


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