- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Two education initiatives created to improve Iowa schools could be at risk of delay or even scuttled due to budget shortfalls.

Iowa lawmakers are struggling with a $110 million budget shortfall, and are unsure if enough funding is available for the initiatives.

The state Department of Education has not requested money from Iowa to implement a crucial summer reading program as part of the state’s third-grade retention law, the Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/2jwlEh0 ) reported. Starting in the spring of next year, third-graders reading below grade level will be required to either repeat the grade or go to an intensive summer reading program to move on to the next year.

Republican House Education Committee chairman Walt Rogers said that initiative and one that would move from the current statewide exams to computer-based tests might be pushed back or changed.

“I think those are all on the table, because obviously the funding issue is prevalent now,” Rogers said.

Lawmakers have questioned if enough funding is available and whether schools are ready for the new computer-based exams, which adjust the difficulty level of math or reading questions based on the students’ answers and were supposed to start in the 2017-2018 school year.

Gov. Terry Branstad spokesman Ben Hammes said some lawmakers have expressed concern about how the new exam was selected, which prompted the governor to ask the state Department of Education to pause the exam’s implementation.

Brandstad had requested $6.1 million to fund new exams in fiscal year 2019. That’s less than the $10 million requested by the education department, which also requested funding to begin in fiscal year 2018.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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