Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, center, leaves the House chambers after delivering his annual Condition of the State address Tuesday before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature at the Statehouse in Des Moines.

AP

Gov. Terry Branstad should whip out his pen, defy his party's ideological disdain for public schools and promptly veto this so-called "hike." 

The 1.1 increase in school aid passed Monday night in the Iowa House is a cut when reality is applied. Let's get that out of the way right now.

The U.S. inflation rate has waffled around 2 percent for six years, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many market watchers expect inflation to rise further in the coming months and years.

So, it's flatly false when Republican lawmakers claim the paltry $40 million added to the education budget will do. 

It's nothing short of a direct assault on Iowa public education and its students.

For hours, administrators and teachers pleaded before Monday's House vote. Class sizes will increase, they said. Programs will be cut, they warned.

And yet, all but two House Republicans toed the party line and joined the Senate in a mass gutting of public schools.

It all sounds awfully familiar. U.S. Senate Republicans, with the vice president's tie-breaking vote, defied experts, educators and reason itself Tuesday and confirmed Betsy DeVos as head of the Department of Education, a woman who'd rather privatize education than bother to understand it.

There's a pattern of open hostility here. Republicans are interested in attacking ideas in the name of nonexistent culture wars and budget-busting tax cuts. They'd rather kneel before their lobbyist paymasters who'd rather see schools rot than pay for their upkeep. 

Iowa's sudden disinterest in public education erodes a legacy of respect for schools, teachers and students. Iowa has plunged in per-pupil aid ranking in recent years, says the National Education Association. Teacher's salaries have flat-lined. And the state's total disdain for home rule binds districts into per-pupil funding levels that will gut programs starting with the arts.

Branstad wasn't exceptionally generous when he rolled out his draft budget proposal. His 2 percent increase would have kept funding levels flat when inflation is taken into account. But even that questionable approach wasn't enough for the misers in the Legislature.

No, the school aid budget was just another moment to flex their new-found, one-party muscles and ram something completely untenable down the throats of Iowans.

It's easy to talk about jobs. It's easy to champion business. Yet it's farcical to say all that while waging an all-out assault on the very children who will be expected to staff these increasingly intellectually demanding positions. 

No border wall will stop the creep of technological innovation and automation. 

But that's reality, which doesn't jibe with party dogma. It's truth that doesn't support the gut-from-within approach to governance that's destroyed schools in Kansas, Mississippi and Idaho. 

It all comes down to Gov. Branstad. The ridiculous real-world cut to education funding is heading to his desk. And he'll be expected to sign it, like a good partisan who is about to leave office for an ambassadorship.

But Branstad doesn't have to take one last swipe at Iowa's public schools or the thousands of children whose futures depend on them.

Branstad could, after all, veto this so-called increase and force the Legislature to deal in reality. 

Local editorials represent the opinion of the Quad-City Times editorial board, which consists of Publisher Deb Anselm, Executive Editor Autumn Phillips, Editorial Page Editor Jon Alexander, City Editor Dan Bowerman, Associate Editor Bill Wundram and community representative John Wetzel.

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