Teacher salaries are exempted from across the board cuts – now and in the future – through an unprecedented move by legislative Democrats. The special exemption is contained in the Education budget bill.
In addition, Senate Study Bill 3248 (now Senate File 2376) , the Education Appropriation bill, makes teachers the only professionals in the state that will immediately get the name of person filing a complaint against them. Iowa’s 32 other licensing boards don’t release the name unless it becomes a founded complaint.
The implications of exempting teacher pay from an ATB are far reaching.
First, it creates a $24 million statewide property tax liability because Iowa school districts will have to go back and pay teachers the $24 million yet this fiscal year. With just three months left in the fiscal year, districts who spent the money elsewhere will be looking to the property taxpayer to pick up the cost.
Second, it creates morale problems in Iowa school districts. Teachers suddenly become the most important people in the school and in their community. The janitor, the food service worker, the teacher’s aide and the principal’s secretary take a pay cut but not the teacher they work beside. And its safe to say that the 110,000 unemployed Iowans, many in the private sector, would gladly take a pay cut in lieu of a layoff.
Third, exempting teacher pay from any ATB cut preferences teachers over public safety, over child support services, over seniors and child care workers. In doing this, Democrats are effectively sending the message that hard times shouldn’t be shared by all and should never be shared by teachers.
Finally, passing a law exempting any one program from an ATB cut is a horrible fiscal idea. Iowa’s governor doesn’t have to order an ATB cut. Our state law currently allows the governor to call the legislature into special session at any time to do selected budget cuts. Carving out exceptions to an ATB takes elected officials out of the very decision making that Iowans elected them to do.
SSB 3248 was voted out of the joint Education Appropriations Subcommittee on a party line vote on Monday last week. The bill starts in the Senate and promises to draw considerable debate in both chambers.