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2010 May 17 - 12:00 am

MONEY TREE: Iowa Gov. Signs Education Funding Measure

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Chet Culver signed an $844 million measure that pays for much of Iowa’s education system, saying he kept a promise to largely protect schools from cuts that have hit other areas.

The bill, which finances the Department of Education, the state’s community colleges and the Board of Regents universities, represents a $28 million increase in spending compared with the current fiscal year.

Culver said he also would soon sign another measure paying for basic state aid to local schools.

“We are keeping our promise to hardworking Iowans by making the needed investment in education for our young people,” Culver said at a bill-signing ceremony before students at Ottumwa High School.

About 60 percent of the state’s $5.3 billion budget will be spent on education.

The Legislature agreed to let local school district budgets increase spending by 2 percent in the next school year. Republicans have argued that the basic state aid bill Culver will sign will fall about $160 million short of paying for that increase, making it likely local districts will increase property taxes.

“Culver continually says he balanced the budget without raising taxes,” said state GOP Chairman Matt Strawn.

“Meanwhile, school districts all across the state are raising their property taxes in order to cope with the funding cut Culver ordered,” he added.”

Democrats and Culver counter that they urged local schools to tap into cash reserves and find efficiencies before turning to property taxes.

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