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Culver pushes to restore K-12 cuts

BY KATHRYN STINSON | JANUARY 20, 2010 7:30 AM

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Iowa Gov. Chet Culver vowed to restore funding to Iowa’s K-12 public-school system in the wake of last fall’s state budget crisis, but he didn’t mention any restoration of funding to Iowa’s public universities.

In his Jan. 12 address on the condition of the state, Culver asked the Legislature to redistribute approximately $100 million form the state reserve to public schools as well as increase state aid by 2 percent per student.

But despite a $24.7 million budget shortfall at the UI, Culver didn’t promise Iowa’s three public universities additional funding.

Regent Robert Downer said he understood the state is experiencing an incredibly difficult time financially, and he hopes that state Board of Regents’ institutions will see some funding restoration later.

“Higher education is going to build a stronger state,” he said. “We need to be careful that we are positioned for the future and we are able to sustain the state in the coming years.”

Downer hopes an analysis on the governor’s decision not to restore regent funding would be presented at the Feb. 3 and 4 regents’ meeting in Ames.

Culver press secretary Troy Price said the governor is working on his budget and will present his proposal to the Legislature at the end of the month, noting the financial difficulty the state is experiencing.

“We simply do not have the resources we need to restore funding to all programs,” he said. “But the governor will continue to work with regent universities on ways to identify efficiencies and streamline services in a way that will save money and help avoid tuition increases.”

Student Regent Greta Johnson said she isn’t optimistic about any future funding restoration.

The Iowa State University student noted that students are an alternative source of money for universities. She’s already felt the effects of the cuts, she said.

K-12 schools are entirely reliant on the government.

“This will be a real short-term shot in the arm for some of our schools,” Culver said in his Jan. 12 speech. “Especially in rural districts, which are already cash-strapped, with depleted reserves.”

Though the governor did promise to continue to support higher education, he didn’t mention any specific support plan or plans to redistribute funding to regents’ institutions in the future.

He also promised to fulfill the last installment in his $60 million program to revamp Iowa’s preschool programs’ availability and quality.

Downer said he felt a lot of people are questioning whether the state should be funding new programs of that particular nature, especially when existing programs are being cut.

Price noted all programs and institutions are feeling the financial burden.

“There is no doubt that this is a challenging time for our state,” he said. “We must all share the sacrifice.”


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