Kaufmann says he will support school savings
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · January 02, 2013

State Rep.-elect Robert “Bobby” Kaufmann told the West Branch School Board last week he will support local decision-making for schools, rainy-day savings accounts and the penny tax for school infrastructure.

Kaufmann, R-Wilton, compared himself to his father, Jeff, who is leaving the state House which the younger Kaufmann will fill when session begins Jan. 14.

“My dad bucked party lines a lot,” Kaufmann said of supporting the penny School Infrastructure Local Option Tax. “We can help small towns with that. And as long as I’m able, that will not change.”

Kaufmann thanked Superintendent Kevin Hatfield and Board President Mike Owen for inviting him, promising he would be “open and accessible.”

“My chief role is to hear your thoughts,” he said. “My litmus test is, ‘Is it good for Cedar County and District 73?’”

He sees the SILO tax and general school funding as the two biggest education issues facing the legislature in 2013. Kaufmann said other lawmakers are talking about increasing the allowable growth of schools by 2 to 4 percent.

Owen presented Kaufmann with a list of five points taken from the Iowa Assoc. of School Boards:

• Supporting continued progress in the development of rigorous content standards and benchmarks.

• Supporting continuation of sufficient incentives and assistance to encourage sharing, reorganization or regional high schools to expand academic learning opportunities for students and to improve student achievement.

• Supporting reform that is research-based, focused on student achievement, includes comprehensive testing, maintains local oversight, does not “repurpose” existing education funding, and does not impose new mandates unless they are fully funded.

• Support setting allowable growth at a rate that encourages continuous school improvement and reflects actual cost increases

• Supports repeal of the mandatory school start date, while offering incentives to school districts to provide extended days and/or innovative calendars.

“I encourage you to look those over,” Owen said. “Allowable growth has been underfunded for years.”

Owen also asked that the state not raid savings accounts of school districts that have managed their money well to be ready for unforeseen financial challenges.

“We’ve done a good job managing our money,” the board president said. “We have cash on hand.”

Kaufmann reiterated his support of local control.

“I don’t care for the state deciding when a third-grader should be held back,” he said. “(And) at its core, I do not punish fiscal stewardship. … It’s silly to punish schools which are ready for the worst. (Schools) need a good safety net.”

He noted that local voters chose a Republican for the House and a Democrat, Robert Dvorsky, in the Senate.

“Any proposal will have to have the support of Senator Dvorsky and me,” he said. “The public decided on a split government. They are sick of grandstanding.”

Owen said he was glad to hear Kaufmann support West Branch board interests.

“I was glad to hear Bobby’s interest in protecting districts that have practiced good fiscal management, as ours has done, which is the point of the proposal,” Owen said later.

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