Let local boards decide

Monday, April 9, 2007

State legislators are pushing for funding specifically for increasing teacher pay. A similar initiative some years back was gutted when the state's budget went through a massive downturn.

The goal is worthy but perhaps the additional $35 million this year and $40 million the following year would best be simply given to school districts so the school boards can decide how best to use the money.

With money designated for a specific rather than general purpose come strings that can get tangled in the operation of local entities.

House Minority Leader Chris Rants, R-Sioux City, said the measure would make it tougher for schools to discipline teachers or fire bad teachers.

"Republicans right now are concerned about what we're hearing from school boards," said Rants. "Nobody is opposed to putting more money into salaries, but they are going well beyond that with a lot of policy changes."

Legislators cannot resist tinkering with policies best left up to local control. It is uninteresting to pay for something as general as education and rather boring to tell constituents about that.

Democrats may feel they owe a political debt to the union representing teachers. Giving teachers more pay makes sense educationally as well as politically. Since salary expense makes up the bulk of a school district's budget, that is where most of the money will go anyway if given to school districts.