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February 10th, 2014

Dems’ Education Funding Demands Fueled by Union Payoffs

It must be an election year. Iowa Democrats are demanding an oversized 6% increase in school funding for fiscal year 2015-16. They also want another expansion of taxpayer-funded, universal preschool.

Why is this important in an election year? There are two reasons: First, it sounds good in TV and radio ads when candidates can claim they support early education and more money for the kids, even if that money never really makes it to the kids.

The second reason the Dems are demanding increased education funding is more remarkable. Or repulsive. They need to line their campaign coffers. Iowa Democrats desperately want the hundreds of thousands of dollars that will come their way from the Iowa State Education Association, aka the teachers’ union.

The ISEA gave the Iowa Democratic Party more than $600,000 in 2012. During 2013, a non-election year, the teachers’ union not only helped fill the coffers for IDP, they also paid off a slew of Democrat state legislators directly.

Consider that when you hear Democrat legislators demand another increase in universal preschool. Despite billions of taxpayer dollars funding it, there is no definitive evidence that universal preschool is a substantial benefit for the children. However, there is overwhelming evidence that universal preschool s a substantial benefit to the campaign funds of Democrats.

If there is more taxpayer-funded preschool, that means more teachers get hired. Which means more members in the teachers’ union and therefore, more union dues. And we’ve already seen where those union dues go: Right into the pockets of the Democrat politicians, to help them get reelected.

We should not go overboard and insinuate that the Democrats’ only motivation for expanding taxpayer-funded preschool is help with the reelection campaigns. It’s part of their liberal ideology, too. The sooner they can rip those three and four-year olds out of caring arms of mom and dad and into government school, the better the kids will be. Right? That is what the Democrats believe. Just ask them.

Not surprisingly, the Iowa teachers’ union is also backing the 6% allowable growth increase in school funding. The compliant Iowa Senate Democrats already passed the bill, which would boost state funding of K-12 schools by $222 million for fiscal year 2015-16. This comes after the legislature approved 4% increases for both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 fiscal years. And they will demand yet another large increase for 2016-17. Guaranteed.

Republicans lambasted the enormous increase.

“Those who will learn nothing from history are condemned to repeat it, said State Senator Jake Chapman (R-Adel). “It wasn’t too long ago that under then-Governor Chet Culver these type of spending proposals resulted in a 10% across the board cut resulting in teacher layoffs. The proposal is unrealistic, unsustainable, and is political maneuvering.”

You would think the Iowa teachers’ union would grow tired for being lied to by the Democrats. Since 2002, the legislature has failed to keep its commitment to local school districts six times, to the tune of nearly $600 million.

Since 2003, the Iowa teachers’ union has given more than $1.5 million to the Iowa Democratic Party. Between 2008-12, they gave more than $500,000 directly to Democrat House and Senate legislators.

Clearly, the teachers’ union expects a return on its investment this year. Unfortunately for them, the 6% increase faces a much murkier future in the Republican-led Iowa House.

“If we were at zero, they would be at 4%. If we were at 6%, they would go to 8%.  They don’t make decisions based on facts, but on the next campaign and how to reel people in. It’s disgusting,” said House Rep. Dawn Pettengill (R-Mount Vernon).

The Democrats’ well-rehearsed explanation for this huge spending increase is that Iowa lags behind other states in terms of funding per student. They use that line in every interview and legislative forum.

The easy rebuttal lies in the funding for other states compared with the actual results. New York State spends more than $19,000 per student, but the graduation rate is only 74%. The District of Columbia spends $18,475 per student, but lags behind every state in the nation, with a woeful 59 percent graduation rate.

Conversely, according to numbers released by the U.S. Department of Education, Iowa ranks number one in the nation with an 88 percent graduation rate. We rank 27th, not 37th, as Sen. Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames) claims, in terms of spending per student. Iowa ranks 30th in population.

There has been no budget estimate on what Iowa’s fiscal outlook will be in 2015-16. It is irresponsible for the Democrats to demand this enormous increase at this early stage. But then, it’s an election year. Irresponsible promises from Democrats will be bountiful this year. They’re just getting started.

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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