A looming political skirmish over the future funding of K-12 education in Iowa might be the harbinger of bigger, high-stakes battles yet to come.
Disagreement between Republican forces led by Gov. Terry Branstad and Democrat lawmakers in concert with education interests likely will come to a head this week when the Iowa General Assembly faces a deadline set by state law that requires lawmakers and the governor to establish the funding level that per-pupil spending authority will be allowed to grow for public school districts in the future fiscal year nearly 18 months out.
Branstad appeared to up the ante even further on Friday when he told reporters he wants to scrap the current forward-funding system he championed in the 1990s and redoing the state’s foundation aid formula to change the focus from spending levels to gearing resources in ways that will improve education and deliver better student achievement results. He said what those changes may look like will rest with a yet-to-be appointed task force under the guidance of state education chief Jason Glass that is to report its finding back to him later this year.
“I think we need to get away from the old way that we’ve done things. We need to change the system and the system needs to focus on things that are going to get us results,” said Branstad, who held an education summit last summer that began the process of exploring a multi-year reform effort.
“We need to look at things differently,” he said. “If you keep doing something the same way and you don’t get good results, it says maybe you’d better try something different. I think it’s time to try something different. This year we’re beginning that.”