Education Funding

Republican Iowa, Mississippi Governors Irked With GOP Reps

By Andrew Ujifusa — April 04, 2012 2 min read
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Maybe it’s something floating down the Mississippi River?

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, both Republicans, are having testy education-related moments with the GOP-controlled House of Representatives in each of their states.

Let’s start in the Magnolia State, where Bryant is unhappy that the House Education Committee voted down legislation that passed the Senate to allow and encourage charter schools to open across the state. Among other things, the bill would create a state Public Charter School Authorizer Board to review charter applications, and set enrollment and lottery requirements for the schools. The House committee rejected the proposal by a 16-15 vote on April 3.

Bryant (who as governor would have the authority to appoint two of the seven members to the authorizer board) almost instantly expressed his displeasure, saying that he may call a special legislative session to reconsider the expansion of charter schools. For what it’s worth, the Center for Education Reform, a pro-charter group, ranks Mississippi as having the weakest of 41 charter school laws in among the states, with only one charter school operating there. [UPDATE: The center recently updated its rankings to reflect that Mississippi now has the weakest of 42 state laws, and that the one charter school listed has closed.]

The environment surrounding the committee vote got so heated that one GOP representative who voted against the legislation was immediately accosted by members of the state’s Tea Party and reportedly called “nothing more than a prostitute.”

(In neighboring Alabama, House members are taking a less confrontational approach to Republican Gov. Robert Bentley-backed, pro-charter legislation, although they are discussing scaling it back to say that only 20 charters could be approved by 2017. The House has a GOP majority.)

Meanwhile, in the Hawkeye State, Branstad is unhappy that Iowa House’s 2013 budget would slash $37 million from the state’s education budget compared with 2012, including $31 million from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa. The governor was reportedly seeking a $20 million increase for those schools.

A March study from the Iowa Fiscal Partnership reported that between fiscal years 2000 and 2011, appropriations for Iowa, Iowa State, and Northern Iowa universities declined by 40 percent after adjusting for inflation. State support per student at the University of Iowa, for example, dropped by $5,000 between 1990 and 2011.

“I believe very much the budget we put together is affordable and sustainable and sets the right priorities in terms of education and jobs,” Branstad told the Des Moines Register April 2, before the Senate rejected the House’s education budget. “We’re going to fight for that budget. We believe in that budget.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.