DES MOINES — The Iowa Senate will move forward with a $187.1 million legislative package next week that sets allowable growth for schools and calls for property tax relief.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, pushed the three pieces of legislation in an education subcommittee this week.

The first sets allowable growth at 4 percent for the 2013-14 school year. That would cost roughly $134.9 million.

The second sets allowable growth for categorical aid for the same school year at a cost of $13.7 million.

The third piece of legislation requires the state to pay for the difference between the state foundation level and what’s typically made up by local property taxes. That bill is expected to cost $38.5 million.

All three proposals received praise from education groups that spoke during the subcommittee meeting, including the Iowa State Education Association, Iowa Association of School Boards, Iowa Urban Education Network and School Administrators of Iowa.

“The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can get back to the business of education reform,” Margaret Buckton, lobbyist for the Iowa Urban Education Network, told committee members after Quirmbach described the allowable growth legislation. The network represents the interests of the state’s 16 largest school districts.

Allowable growth is the percent that a school district can allow its budget to grow from year to year. It’s set by the Legislature and, by statute, is supposed to be set 30 days after the governor’s budget address.

Gov. Terry Branstad told lawmakers he wants them to pick up his education reform legislation before they consider allowable growth.

“We need to meet our existing responsibilities first. The urgency is with allowable growth funding,” Quirmbach said.

Still, Quirmbach said, the Senate could begin on the governor’s 64-page education reform package as early as next week.

The House held its first subcommittee on education reform on Tuesday. It has not yet set hearings on an allowable growth bill.


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