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News-Herald Weekly Question for your Iowa Legislators: Week 2

January 25, 2013
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

During the 2013 Iowa Legislative session, The Chronicle and News-Herald will submit questions to the Tama County delegation:

State Senator Steve Sodders (D-State Center) and State representative Dean Fisher (R-Garwin.)

If you have a question you would like considered for submission, send it to the newspapers.

Article Photos

State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Garwin)
State Senator Steve Sodders (D-State Center)

WEEK?TWO:?News-Herald reader A.M. has proposed using one-half or about $400 million of the Iowa state surplus for teacher pay. Would you back such an action?


State Rep. Dean Fisher


First of all, I do not view the $800 million ending balance as a surplus rather it is an overpayment by Iowa taxpayers and they deserve that money back. If it was spent on an ongoing expense, we would not be able to sustain the funding in the future.

Generally, I am committed to the following principles to produce a balanced and sustainable state budget:

1. I will support spending less than the state collects

2. I will not support using one-time money to fund ongoing needs

3. I will not support balancing the budget by intentionally underfunding programs

4. I will support returning unused tax dollars back to Iowa taxpayers.

Specifically, the issue of improving schools is very complex and includes many stake holders, none more important than Iowa's children. It is something I heard often while out meeting with Iowans this summer we must find ways to make our schools better.

In his January 15 Condition of the State address, Governor Branstad proposed changes to the K-12 educational system that would create a career ladder for teachers as a centerpiece of the change along with several other changes. The governor's proposal includes increased pay for new hire teachers and for teachers that are higher on that career ladder who would be acting as mentors. When fully implemented the plan would cost an additional $187 million per year. By tying significant changes that could improve Iowa's educational system to the increased pay in a manner that should improve our teacher quality, the governor's proposal is a good start. I would encourage all to go on line and learn more about the governor's proposal on the Iowa Department of Education website. (Go to ) If you don't have Internet, feel free to contact me for a paper copy of the Legislative Brief at 641-750-3594.

Whether or not the specific changes in the proposal are the best changes to improve Iowa's schools remains to be determined, but I look forward to learning more about the specifics of the plan and getting input from parents, teachers and administrators. There are factors outside of the school that have a large impact on a child's ability to learn.

I believe all of the stake-holders in Iowa need to honestly engage in the debate over the proposal and suggest sensible and workable changes if changes are needed. One of our superintendents made it clear to me that "one size fits all" solutions don't work and I would agree. What works in a large Des Moines school district may not work in a small Tama county school district. Any plan needs flexibility. I do know that simply throwing money at the schools with no plan whatsoever does a great disservice to Iowa's children and taxpayers. As your state Representative I have made sure that our district's school superintendents are informed on this proposal and I will continue gathering feedback from them so I know exactly what changes will mean for our schools.

I will continue to study the proposal and listen to what our educators and taxpayers have to say on the issue and work to make improvements. Please contact me at or at 641-750-3594 if you would like to discuss the issue.

State Senator

Steve Sodders

(D-State Center):

Funding for education and kids should not be a partisan issue, especially when you consider that strong schools are key to Iowa's economic opportunities-now and down the road.

Governor Branstad has said he wants to pass various "education reform" measures, including a 5 year plan to increase teacher's roles, responsibilities and salaries. I have consistently supported reform efforts designed to increase teacher quality, raise academic standards, and use innovation. The amount of funding need to implement the Governor's new proposals in our local schools is still under discussion.

However, the most time-sensitive education issue right now is "allowable growth" or basic school aid for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years. I support a modest 4 percent increase in basic school aid for next school year. If the Legislature doesn't act on this issue before March, local schools will be forced to assume there will be no increase in state aid. Teachers will be laid off, local property taxes could be raised, cuts will be made, and student achievement will suffer. As we consider all legislation, I urge bipartisan support for returning to our tradition of predictable, stable and sustainable funding for our local schools.



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