By Alex Schuman
Senate Democrats passed three bills increasing funding for Iowa's schools by millions early Wednesday afternoon.
"Our schools have increasing expenses," said Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames. "They have increasing costs for healthcare insurance, they have to pay for fuel, they have to pay for new text books."
Schools are anxious to know how much they will get from the state next year so they can plan their budgets, according to Quirmbach.
Iowa law requires the legislature to decide how much they plan to give schools 18 months before that school year begins. Last year, members of the House did not pass a bill, which means schools across Iowa do not know how much money they will get in 2014.
"If you want world class schools for all of the kids in Iowa ya gotta pay for it!" said Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids.
Senate Democrats passed a bill by a slim 26 to 23 margin to, which raises allowable growth, or how much more the state gives schools per-student, by 4 percent.
They wanted to pass the bill now to meet a March 1st deadline based on requests from Iowa superintendents.
Republicans who voted against the bill want to wait until reforms proposed by Gov. Branstad can be passed. They claim it makes no sense to fund programs now, which may get changed or do not benefit students.
"We still have, according to your time frame, four weeks for us to have a lively, energetic debate about what's the best thing for the students of this state," said Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa. "I strongly recommend that we do that and think it is premature to spend the money."
"I really, don't quite know what to say," said Quirmbach. "We're violating the law by a year! And yet, you still say we're premature."
In a news conference Monday, Democrats said they would try to get a vote in the House on these bills as soon as Thursday.