Up or down: Give it a vote.

Few cases of legislative inaction would be more craven than denying the school equity bill a floor vote in the Iowa House. Not a single member should leave Des Moines until going on record and owning their support — or lack thereof — for legislation that would end funding discrimination for hundreds of Iowa public schools.

The school equity bill is turning green in the Iowa House Appropriations Committee. It's no surprise. Iowa's GOP-run government faces mounting revenue shortfalls, self-imposed wounds resulting from years of tax cuts that disproportionately favor the well off.

Gov. Terry Branstad reacted by proposing deep cuts to important programs. Lawmakers responded Wednesday by driving the scalpel into bone. The Legislature's draft budget is almost $39 million short of Branstad's already draconian figure.

And so, Senate File 455, which would finally right the systematic classism in state school funding, sits there turning stale. It's just as predicted by a slew of House members representing the Quad-Cities. It's precisely the kind of gutlessness and commitment to ideological dogma that got Iowa into this mess in the first place.

Some House members blamed the state Senate, including Davenport Republican Roby Smith, for sending the 10-year, $204 million moral imperative to the House without a funding stream. Others said they support SF 455 in principle, but not in practice. Democrats have lampooned its 10-year roll-out, a recipe for repeal, they say.

Everyone's looking for political cover. But thousands of students — in places like Davenport and Maquoketa — don't care about the rhetoric and finger pointing. Their sole interest is equal treatment under the law, one that now values their education less than neighboring districts.

No doubt, there's significant political motivation for letting SF 455 rot in Appropriations. There it could languish without action. There it could die without much notice. There it could sit and no House member would have to vote against basic fairness.

The legislative session is rocketing toward its scheduled April 18 end. Republicans, now in total control of Iowa, have wasted metric tons of oxygen on so-called "moral" issues. They've fast-tracked ideologically acceptable bills far more complicated than the school funding fix, such as the collective bargaining overhaul. And yet, they'd rather let student equity die on the vine out of political expedience.

On Sunday, Davenport Community School District Superintendent Art Tate called for an up-or-down vote in an op-ed. Tate, the man who's put his career on the line for this cause, highlighted the widespread effects of 40-year-old policy that funds some schools around $170 more per-student than others.

This editorial appeared in the April 18 edition of the Quad City Times, another Lee Enterprises publication.

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