With the budget situation dragging on in the legislature, frustration is growing among school administrators who still don’t know how much funding they’ll have to work with. The school year’s almost out, and most districts are filing budgets that reflect no increase in state aid for next year.
Fairfield Superintendent Don Achelpohl says schools are already laying off staff. “We have to reach a settlement with our unions, and right now without having anything locked in for sure, we’re at the negotiation table at the same time,” Achelpohl says, “and yet we don’t know what we will have in funding from the state.”
Oelwein superintendent, Steve Westerberg, says it’s not easy to set the budget without a number to work with. “Every school superintendent in the state created a budget for next year basically on the blind a bit, trying to guess what was going to happen in the legislature. Because if you set your rate too low, then you’re really gonna be in trouble. And if you set it too high, then you’re unnecessarily taxing local taxpayers more than they should be taxed,” Westerberg says.
“So it’s a target you’re trying to set your eye on, and you know, it’s just not there.” Lawmakers were supposed to inform schools back in February what their per-pupil spending levels would be. Governor Branstand wants to freeze those rates paid to schools, but Democrats argue that a spending freeze amounts to significant school cuts.