- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Senate Democrats gave preliminary approval Wednesday to legislation that would boost school funding above the level sought by the governor.

A set of education funding bills received subcommittee approval in the Democratic-majority Senate. Under the proposal, school aid would increase by more than $200 million for the upcoming academic year.

That’s more than double the amount supported by the Republican-controlled House, though still less money than education advocates had lobbied for. The House and Senate proposals include funding specifically dedicated to teacher leadership training.

The legislation will now move to the full Senate Education Committee for review. Sen. Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa, says the state must provide quality schools.

“When schools have inadequate funding, it leads to decreased opportunities for all Iowa students,” said Bowman, who noted that he was a teacher at Maquoketa High School. “We can do better for our Iowa students.”

But Rep. Ron Jorgenson, R-Sioux City, said the state cannot afford a significant increase for schools, given existing budget commitments.

“It’s following the path of ‘let’s spend it now and worry about it later,” Jorgenson said. He said the proposal may require cuts in other areas.

Lawmakers on both sides of the argument said they’d like to find a compromise soon, so that schools can develop their budgets. School advocates told Senators Wednesday that they had hoped for more money than the Senate bill provides, but that they appreciate the proposal.

“We are convinced that money matters for our school district. We have to make sure we attract and retain quality employees. We have to make sure we have the best technology for our students,” said Margaret Buckton, a lobbyist for the Urban Education Network of Iowa. “We support your efforts to make this as much money for schools as possible.”

Democratic lawmakers said they were sympathetic to the concerns from schools, but said they wanted to craft a budget proposal that was affordable.

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