The Paulsen Perspective: Excited and Disappointed


This week was both exciting and disappointing.

I remain disappointed that the legislature still has not settled K-12 education funding.   We have continued to reach out to our counterparts in the Senate, trying to get Supplemental State Aid down to the governor’s desk.  As a reminder, this was the first bill off the floor of the House and commits over half of all the new revenue coming into the state to K-12 education before any other budget commitment has been made.  Overall, the state spends nearly 42% of its budget on K-12 education – and with this new funding, state education spending will have increased $570 million over the past five years.

I’m excited that this week we were able to follow through on another commitment to Iowans by giving school districts more flexibility for them to manage their districts – we passed bills dealing with increased flexibility for the management levy and at-risk funding programs as well as cost containment measures (House File 549).

House File 549 narrowly changes the binding arbitration process for school district and Area Education Agency (AEA) employees.  It makes three changes to what an arbitrator is allowed to consider when rendering a decision on union contracts.

For too long the scale of fairness has been tilted in favor of labor and against taxpayers during contract negotiations for school districts and AEAs.  School boards and their negotiating teams have been forced to build 3-4% yearly raises into their budgets, regardless of district revenues, putting a financial strain on districts.  House File 549 seeks to remedy this problem and even the playing field in labor negotiations.

First, an arbitrator no longer is required to pick one or the other of the two parties’ final offers on an item when there’s an impasse.  Instead, the arbitrator is authorized to choose a point between the two offers.  This ensures that a compromise position can be reached where both sides can come away from negotiations happy.

Second, an arbitrator is no longer able to consider the public employer’s authority to levy taxes to finance an increase in compensation packages.  Unions point to government’s unlimited ability to raise taxes as the basis for pay increases beyond what current revenues can afford.

Third, an arbitrator is required to look at a comparison of public and private sector wages, hours, and conditions of employment for workers doing comparable work to get a true and fair comparison.  Current law only requires an arbitrator to look at a comparison of other public sector workers.

Rep. Forristall floor-managed the bill through the House.  You can watch his closing comments on the bill here.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at or my office at (515) 281-3521.

  • David Karwoski

    What I’m disappointed in is you force the .10 gas tax increase.nice job in screw the people who live here as well as people who visit. You have shown to be just another liberal tax and spend “Republican”.

  • Patrick K.

    I have sent a couple of letters, but I will try to contact you here. Senate and House Democrats have made the ONLY attempt to compromise and were met with a resounding no. You won’t listen to the 330 Iowa school districts who tell you that a 4% increase will barely allow schools to maintain current programming. You refuse to engage Democrats in a reasonable compromise on funding, so my question to you is, what is your plan? Where are the army of experts telling you that a 1.25% will lead to world class schools? Where are the army of teachers who are ready to take over for our current educational workforce who are gradually (well, not so gradually) becoming frustrated with your desire to crush public education. Are there students in Iowa encouraging you to maintain funding that doesn’t keep up with inflation? Are there Iowa young people excited that their teachers are losing their jobs? Are there Iowa students filling your email box with excitement over losing arts programs because schools can’t afford them? I know that you believe teachers are bleeding the state dry with our “outrageous” requests for small incremental raises to keep up with inflation each year and a desire to have health care. So, step up sir, and find that pool of more qualified teachers who would do better than we do and do it with less resources. I assume you know where they are since you know better than those of us who have spent years in the classroom watching increased “legislative oversight” change our schools. So, I eagerly await your plan that will improve schools for our young people. Until then I am going to earn my middle class salary (vastly overpaid in your opinion I am sure) by teaching kids a rigorous and relevant curriculum. I’m going to advise them, I am going to help them to become more inquisitive, and I am going to prepare them for their futures. You, on the other hand, are going to cut taxes for corporations and wealthy Iowans. Bravo. I assume that gives you a warm feeling all over. Oh yeah, and guns, you’ve done work on making guns easier to get. Again, bravo sir. So, hold at 1.25%, it seems like the right thing to do right? And be sure the governor gets his 9% because it seems like he thinks that more resources will lead to better results in his office. But, hey, wait a minute, isn’t that what teachers are saying? Those crafty teachers are using the governor’s logic, but I’m sure he really has a good use for that 9%. Maybe he will hire another education aide who has spent no time working in a school of any sort. We can trust him to make good personnel decisions right? Well, you get back to the hard work of obstructing educational progress in Iowa. I’ve got some lesson plans to write.

  • lyrralt

    Some of that “necessary” tax money is going to salaries instead of roads.