As kids head back to class this week, many will be walking into classrooms with more students and fewer resources than ever before.
According to the Des Moines Register, schools needed a 3% increase in funding to maintain the same level of service they provided in 2016, but Governor Reynolds only produced a “miserable” 1.1 percent increase in K-12 funding for the 2017 – 2018 school year.
“It’s completely irresponsible what Governor Reynolds has done with the education budget. Now more than ever we should be investing in our schools to keep working families here and protect Iowa’s economy,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price. “If we want a brighter future for our kids, we can’t keep asking teachers to do more with less.”
Unfortunately, under Kim Reynolds’ leadership, the future of our schools is more uncertain than ever.
Reynolds’ inability to fund our education system has resulted in deep cuts to our local Iowa schools. According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “The 1.1 percent increase in basic state aid approved for K-12 districts next school year is paltry by historic standards and just half what Gov. Terry Branstad proposed.”
A Quad-City Times editorial called the move a “laughably insufficient 1.1 percent boost in total education funding, which amounts to a cut when inflation is considered.”
Marion parent Mark Bussell told Iowa Public Radio “The proposed budget increase of 1.11 percent is not in the best interests of our students… Does this budget make the grade? No. It seems obvious that our educators and our students will suffer because of these actions taken by our state legislature.’”
This summer, third graders across Iowa were supposed to participate in a critical reading program. Without the program, more than 9,000 Iowa third graders risked being held back due to reading deficiencies.
Due to Governor Reynolds’ budget crisis, the program was defunded and cancelled.
The Iowa Board of Education warned that lack of funding could be a “disaster” for the future of Iowa’s third graders, as some studies show that third graders who struggle in reading are more likely to drop out of school in the future.
A Des Moines Register editorial said that officials who killed the summer reading program “failed 9,000 Iowa kids.”
Today students at Iowa’s public universities head back to class with massive tuition increases hanging over their heads. Governor Reynolds said last week that there is “no way” Iowa families could afford those hikes.
However, she failed to take responsibility for the fact that those hikes are a direct result of her budget cuts. She also failed to use her power and influence as governor to offer solutions for the crisis.
Tuition Hikes and the Reynolds Budget
The Iowa tuition task force was called this summer specifically because Reynolds and GOP lawmakers slashed 30 million dollars from the higher education budget.
The Quad City Times blasted Reynolds in a recent editorial for her allegiance to corporate tax cuts over education:
“Iowa’s regents universities didn’t create this mess. They’re victims of a state that simply doesn’t value education anymore. Or, at least, one that places it below tax cuts for big business on the list of priorities. In 2013, then Lt. Gov. Reynolds supported the largest tax cuts in state history, which are now directly responsible for incessant budgetary shortfalls.”
The Storm Lake Times also said that the tuition increases are:
“completely the fault of mismanagement and bad policy by Gov. Terry Branstad, the Iowa Legislature and the regents he appointed. Branstad’s successor, Gov. Kim Reynolds, is content to let the process work out with the regents as the entire state budget is in shambles.”
Taking money from public education has been a pattern of the Branstad-Reynolds Administration since passing large commercial property tax cuts in 2013 that have resulted in lower-than-predicted state revenues.
In 2014, Branstad vetoed funding for programs at state universities arguing he needed to take action to help ensure the state’s budget remained solid. The cuts included tens of millions of dollars in funding to state university agriculture, science, manufacturing, and Biosystems programs.
In 2015, the administration cut higher education funding by vetoing $2.5 million for community colleges, $2.9 million for the University of Iowa, $2.3 million for Iowa State University, and $1.1 million for the University of Northern Iowa.
In June, Reynolds said she would not rule out even greater cuts to higher education in the next budget year.
In her comments about the tuition hikes, Reynolds did not offer any solutions or actions that might solve the crisis. Instead, she passed the responsibility off to others.
From the Des Moines Register:
“There is no way that Iowa families could afford a 7 percent increase over five years,” she said. “So I would encourage the Regents to … take a look at what’s manageable and keep in the forefront doing everything we can to keep higher education, post-secondary education costs down.”
Although Reynolds criticized the increases, she was noncommittal about what the Regents institutions should expect from the state during the next budget cycle.
“The Legislature is going to do what the Legislature is going to do,” she said. “We’ll work closely with them. We’ll put our budget together and they’ll put theirs together.”
“As the Governor, Kim Reynolds has the power to veto legislation and use her bully pulpit to guide political conversations, especially when her party is in the majority. She certainly has the power to prevent these tuition hikes or at least make a difference in the debate. To suggest otherwise is, frankly, ridiculous,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price.
Today, the Des Moines Reigster called Governor Reynolds out for her misleading rhetoric about the privatization of Medicaid in Iowa.
“After handing over management of the $4 billion Medicaid program to three for-profit companies last year, Iowans have filed hundreds of complaints, including many about losing access to care. Health providers have closed their doors. Iowans with disabilities have filed a federal lawsuit against Reynolds, accusing the state of depriving thousands the right to live safely outside institutions.
Yet the new governor continues to insist privatization is a great thing.
Several months ago she was quoted in a news release as saying Iowans with “high risk behavioral health conditions” were faring better under privatized Medicaid.
Soon after, the Register editorial board reported the private insurers owed Southwest Iowa Mental Health System about $300,000 for services provided. We recently reported on a private insurer refusing to cover care for a mentally ill teen. This week Des Moines psychiatrist Jim Gallagher told an editorial writer that the private insurers were reducing payments to workers who supervise individuals in group homes, including a man with a history of pedophilia.
Yet Reynolds does not acknowledge such problems. Worse, she pretends there are none. An August 3 press release from her office referenced a questionable survey indicating Iowa patients’ satisfaction was among the highest in the nation.”
“The Register frequently hears from Iowans who have lost health care, closed medical services businesses or are owed money by the insurers. And now we have heard from the widow of a man who died after the insurer refused to pay his caregivers.
Reynolds should rethink her press releases on this issue. They do not reflect the reality of what is going on in this state. The current governor has no obligation to continue defending a disaster set in motion by her predecessor.
She does, however, have an obligation to be honest with the nearly 600,000 Iowans who rely on Medicaid, the thousands of health providers who serve them and the taxpayers funding the program. Unfortunately, such honesty is painfully absent. “
Today, the Iowa Democratic Party celebrates the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
The First Vice Chair of the Party, Andrea Phillips, released the following statement:
“The 19th Amendment is not only a recognition of the equal status of women in civil society, but also our power to organize. Women came together to fight against their own disenfranchisement and won. It’s a testament to our strength, a strength that we need now more than ever.
There’s a lot at stake for women right now.
Women still aren’t receiving equal pay for equal work, and the disparity is even greater for women of color. I was appalled to see Iowan women’s rights to make private health care decisions about our own bodies taken from us by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by the Branstad-Reynolds administration. Then we saw Republicans in Congress try to charge women more for health insurance simply because of our biology. And these issues are far more difficult to tackle when women don’t have a seat at the table. Women only make up 19% of Congress and 22% of the Iowa State Legislature.
Just like women came together to pass the 19th Amendment, we need to channel that spirit to keep fighting for equality, keep fighting for our rights. When we work together, records are broken, laws are changed, and Iowa moves forward. We’re ready to do that again in 2018.”