SIOUX CITY | Citing concerns it would be used for ongoing expenses, Gov. Terry Branstad on Monday defended his decision to veto $55.7 million in one-time funding for Iowa’s public schools.
“I’ve been crystal clear about not using one-time money for ongoing expenses from the day that I came back as governor (in 2011),” Branstad told reporters.
School administrators bemoaned the Republican governor's decision to use his line-item veto authority Thursday on the supplemental funding approved by state legislators, saying it would hamstring efforts to offer students the best education possible.
“It’s just very disappointing to all educators across the state,” Sergeant Bluff-Luton superintendent Rod Earleywine said.
Branstad approved a 1.25 percent increase in funding over the previous year for the state's school districts. Funding for K-12 and preschool operations will total $3.087 billion in fiscal 2015-16.
The extra $55.7 million for classes that start this fall was a compromise agreement between statehouse Republicans who wanted to stick to the 1.25 percent increase and Democrats who felt schools needed more.
“We need to have stability and predictability,” Branstad said, adding once again that he was “disappointed” lawmakers did not set a second year of school funding as the law demands.
School officials warned the 1.25 percent increase will lead to staff layoffs, larger class sizes and reduced programming.
In Northwest Iowa, the one-time stipends, based on enrollment, ranged from $1.6 million for the Sioux City school district to about $20,000 for the small Whiting district.
Whiting superintendent Jeff Thelander said the extra funds would have been used for instructional materials. He said the veto will not affect staffing at Whiting. However, Thelander, who is also the superintendent at Lawton-Bronson, said the L-B district had planned to add a new educational position with the one-time funding, which totaled roughly $70,000.
Thelander said the Lawton-Bronson district will hold off implementing the unspecified position, as he said the administration hopes to keep cash reserves and unspent balances “at a safe level.”
“That’s a number we’ve worked hard to build for many years, and we want to be wise to preserve that to have the ability to make long-term decisions on behalf of the kids,” he said.
The Sergeant Bluff-Luton district had planned to update its K-5 science and K-2 social studies curriculum with its $157,000 of the one-time funds. Earleywine said the district still aims to keep current with its curriculum and said the governor's veto would cause tighter budgets in other areas.
“We’ll just have to tighten our belts even more and … do the right thing to provide the opportunities our kids, our students deserve,” he said. He said changes to the budget to accommodate the curriculum will be determined later.
The Sioux City district also had planned to use one-time funds for curriculum, in both elementary science and high school social studies. School board President Mike Krysl said the district will refrain from purchasing the materials needed to update the curriculum.
Erin Murphy of the Journal Des Moines Bureau contributed to this report.