Iowa state lawmakers wrapped up their second week of the legislative session in Des Moines. Education is always a hot topic every year. This session it seems hotter than normal.

Republicans are moving fast on some measures.

Here’s how the spending debate is shaking out for public schools at the moment. This isn’t getting as much attention as normal.

Both Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republicans in the State House propose a 2.5 percent increase in new money for public schools. That’s roughly $150-million in new money.

The House would also add another $19 million on top of that to adjust for inflation.

Senate Republicans propose a smaller increase of 2.25 percent. That’s roughly $135 million in new money.

Democrats want a 5 percent increase of about $300-million, but have no political power to get it.

A couple of controversial measures related to sexual orientation and gender identity are being considered. House File 8 would ban teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom from kindergarten through third grade.

House File 9 would not allow schools to recognize changes in gender identity among students without their parents’ consent.

Then there’s Reynolds’ mission to adopt private-school vouchers. This would establish education savings accounts of about $7,600 for parents who want to send their kids to private school, and for kids already in private school.

One of the complaints brought up by Republicans in rural parts of Iowa is the lack of access to private schools. Common Good Iowa tracked how many private schools each of the 99 counties in the state has: 41 counties don’t have any private schools, there are 23 counties with one, and another 28 have between two and six private schools. Six counties fall in the range of six to 12 private schools. Scott County is included there. One County – Polk – has 20 private schools.

We talk about that and more with Iowa State Representatives Monica Kurth and Gary Mohr.

“I’m very worried about what it would do to the school districts, both that I represent and throughout the state of Iowa,” Kurth said. “Our schools have been underfunded for many years now.”

“Quite honestly, I’m not there yet whether I’m going to support or oppose the bill,” Mohr said. “”I am concerned about independence of private schools.”

To hear what else our panelists have to say, click on the video.

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