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House and Senate Republicans agree on general level of spending for schools

DES MOINES — Republicans at the statehouse have settled on sending Iowa’s K-12 public schools $36.5 million more in general state aid for the next academic year. Representative Cecil Dolecheck, a Republican from Mount Ayr, outlined details during House debate Thursday.

“It is part of a package that we’re putting together to go to schools. There are some other funds that we’re looking at that will, quite possibly, go further,” Dolecheck said. “I hope this is not the end and I don’t think it is.”

Democrats say even if there’s another batch of money later, this decision setting per pupil spending means property taxes will go up in 137 school districts with lower enrollment this year compared to last.

“When I was campaigning, the things I heard more than anything from folks is, ‘Well, what are you going to do to lower these property taxes?’” said Representative Eric Gjerde, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids.

Representative Molly Donahue, a Democrat who is also from Cedar Rapids, said the tax hike will be a “double-whammy” to property owners in Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown and other school districts that were hit by the derecho and have fewer students this year.

“My issue here is we have a surplus of millions of dollars,” she said, “and we are lowering funding for 137 schools.”

Republicans say it would be irresponsible to withdraw money from the state’s budget surplus for schools as that money may be needed next year if the state’s economy doesn’t rebound from the pandemic. The GOP’s plan for general state spending on schools has cleared the House and will be taken up in the Senate next week.

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