Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
HIAWATHA, Iowa - Candidates in a Marion-Hiawatha-Robins legislative district found little room for agreement on education and a host of other state issues during a League of Women Voters' forum Oct. 9.
Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, and House 67 Democratic challenger Mark Seidl of Cedar Rapids disagreed on the level of funding for schools, education reform and school choice.
House 67 includes Robins and Hiawatha as well as northern and western Marion.
Seidl, who said he wants to run government rather than run against government, called for the Legislature to set allowable growth at 4 percent to make up for years when there was no increase or only a 2 percent increase.
The state has a $400 million surplus, Seidl said.
"Why not invest in our most important value – education?" he said.
However, Paulsen pointed out that allowable growth only tells school districts how much they can spend. In the past, the Legislature hasn't always given local districts the funds and, in some cases, governors have cut the funding.
In those cases, districts either had to raise local property taxes or spend their reserve funds.
"It's worse to promise then do an across-the-board cut that leaves local districts in the lurch," Paulsen said. Whatever allowable growth number the Legislature sets, he added "we will meet the state's commitment."
Seidl also hit Paulsen for a GOP proposal that would have cut funding for community colleges and regent universities. Paulsen said the increase in the most recent budget was one of the largest increase in community college funding. He took the Board of Regents' decision to hold the line on tuition as a sign that it thought its funding was adequate.
They did find some common ground on expanding STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – education.
"We've got to do more than Lego League and science fairs," Seidl said.
He had little praise for proposals to use class size reduction funds to pay teachers and expressed little support for "so-called" education reforms. Larger classes, eliminating preschool and third-grade retention are a "small-minded attack in teachers' unions."
Those proposals, some from the Department of Education, are still being studied and have not been enacted by the Legislature, Paulsen said.