- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Republican lawmakers on Monday proposed legislation that would increase Iowa’s K-12 education spending for the upcoming budget year by about $40 million, an amount that Democrats called inadequate.

The plan, backed by leadership in both GOP-controlled chambers, proposes that the amount spent per student in Iowa go up by about 1.1 percent. The state currently spends roughly $3 billion from its general fund on K-12 education.

The legislation would also remove a requirement that lawmakers set K-12 education funding roughly two years out. Lawmakers have rarely followed the law in recent years amid partisanship over money.

Republicans said their spending proposal is all the state can responsibly spend amid money constraints for the budget year that goes into effect in July. The GOP plan would come in below Gov. Terry Branstad’s funding recommendation of a 2 percent increase.

“We believe it’s the appropriate amount that we can afford this year,” said Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls and chairman of the House Education Committee.

Rogers added that other legislation this session could include reforming school funding distribution, and that might help.

Democrats questioned the amount and the timing of some legislative activity linked to the spending plan. Lawmakers were scheduled to approve a series of procedural moves Monday evening despite complaints from some Democrats that the process was being rushed. Formal floor votes could happen as early as this week.

Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, is a member of the Senate Education Committee and a teacher. He said details of the bill became available shortly before scheduled votes to advance it. He expressed frustration at not having enough details about its impact to schools and students.

“What’s this going to mean to my rural schools?” he said. “Is it going to mean consolidations? Is it going to mean closings? Is it going to mean more busing? There’s a lot of unanswered questions.”

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