Iowa lawmakers focused on reforming education, taxes - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Iowa lawmakers focused on reforming education, taxes

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DES MOINES, Iowa (KTIV) -

Reform is a word you'll hear a lot at the Iowa Legislature, this session. From property tax reform, to education reform. Lawmakers got to work, Monday.

A $1-billion surplus could allow lawmakers, in Des Moines, to do a lot this legislative session. But, where the money will go-- to teachers, or taxpayers-- may take months to decide.

150 lawmakers, and nearly as many opinions about the direction of the 85th session of the Iowa Legislature. Sen. Randy Feenstra, (R) Hull says "It's so key." Senator Randy Feenstra is talking about property tax reform. Iowa's property tax rate is one of the nation's highest. And, Feenstra says, it's costing Iowa business. Sen. Randy Feenstra, (R) Hull says "We're losing a tremendous amount of business across the state. We need to make sure that our businesses stay."

Feenstra chairs the Ways and Means committee, which focuses on taxes. He, and other lawmakers say reform can't wait. Rep. Chuck Soderberg, (R) Le Mars says, "We're not competitive with our neighbors whether that's income taxes, or property taxes." Representative Chuck Soderberg chairs the Appropriations committee, which holds the purse strings. For him, a balanced budget should be "job one." But, that doesn't mean spending the $1-billion surplus. Rep. Chuck Soderberg, (R) Le Mars says, "Do whatever we can to return that to taxpayers."

Or, the money could go to state teachers. Rep. Ron Jorgensen, (R) Sioux City says, "Something needs to happen." House education committee chair Ron Jorgensen says Iowa students have slipped... from the head of the class, to the middle of the pack. Rep. Ron Jorgensen, (R) Sioux City says, "What are we instructing? We have to make sure we have a relevant and rigorous curriculum.  Make sure we have an appropriate assessment mechanism so we know students are meeting that standards that are in that curriculum. And  we also have to focus on who's teaching it." Jorgensen, who's an administrator at Morningside College, says while Iowa should work hard to retain the best teachers, there should be consequences for failing to educate young Iowans.

Governor Terry Branstad released his plan to reform Iowa's education system, on Monday. The centerpiece? Changes to teacher leadership, and compensation which raises starting salaries from $28,000 to $35,000 a year. Governor Branstad will lay out his plans for the state, Tuesday, during his annual "condition of the state" speech.

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