- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would provide more than $200 million in additional school funding for the 2015-2016 academic year, but the bills are unlikely to advance in the Republican-majority House where lawmakers don’t want to take this issue up until next year.

The Senate approved three bills dealing with school funding. Two that would boost funding were approved 26-23, in straight party-line votes. A measure to pay for the increase using state dollars, rather than through a hike in property taxes, was approved 49-0. The bills will now move to the state House for review.

Funding for the 2014-2015 school year has already been established. Under state law, the General Assembly is supposed to set funding for elementary and secondary education more than a year in advance, though Republicans have not always followed that rule in recent years.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said schools need the additional funding and the advance planning time.

“There are some who would prefer to delay, kick the can down the road for another year,” Quirmbach said. “But the law will not allow us to do that. The law requires us to act on this matter.”

Democrats want to provide an additional $222.5 million in state funding for the 2015-2016 school year. Per-pupil spending would increase by 6 percent, going to $6,748, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. As part of the plan, this increase would be funded by the state, not by a hike in property taxes.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said Wednesday he expects to take up funding for the 2015-2016 school year in the next session. He said that he wants to know more about the available tax revenues before making any commitments.

Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has said the state cannot afford the proposed funding increase.

House lawmakers this week began debate on legislation that would change the rules for when lawmakers must determine these funding numbers. The legislation would require lawmakers to set two years of funding levels in odd-numbered years. Under those rules, which Paulsen said he supported, lawmakers would establish the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 funding next year. But this plan appears unlikely to win support in the Senate.

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