FUNNEL WEEK: Negotiating Education Reform

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The 2013 legislative session nears its halfway point and lawmakers know a little better where they stand.

This week marked the first “funnel week” meaning most bills that didn’t make it out of one committee will probably die for the year.

Some of those are emotionally charged; restricting abortion, banning same sex marriage, legalizing medical marijuana and getting rid of traffic cameras.

The legislature still has a lot of work to do with bills that have advanced out of committee. Those include healthcare reform, an anti-bullying bill and education reform.

House republicans and senate democrats are still a ways away from a compromise on an education bill.

Senate democrats have passed their plan to raise education spending from the year before explains Senator Matt McCoy, “Under our proposal, we’ve set the allowable growth rate at four percent.”

House republicans have also addressed allowable growth, asking for two-percent.

But Representative Peter Cownie says first things first, “We need to reform education before we just put more money into it.”

Cownie is referring to the governor’s education reform plan which includes higher pay for first year teachers and more leadership incentives.

“For Iowa to be all it can be and for the future of kids being able to get good jobs, hopefully in Iowa, we need to reform education.”

The question both sides could debate in the coming weeks is whether reform or allowable growth should come first.

Senator Matt McCoy says school districts are anxiously awaiting that decision. They have to submit their budgets to the state by April 15th, “I think you’ll see a lot of teachers receive pink slips and they’ll be reinstated as budget decisions are made later on.”

That debate is likely to take place in conference committee where a handful of leaders from each party and each chamber work out a compromise.

McCoy says this could happen before the next funnel deadline in three weeks, “Our version is sitting in the House, waiting to be taken up. They can amend our version, then we can get this into conference committee, immediately.”

Cownie is preparing himself for the long-haul, “This will be an ongoing negotiation the rest of the session.”

April 30th is also the deadline for districts to give pink slips to teachers they may not be able to bring back for the next school year.


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