The $32 million increase would not be as robust as the $54 million boost Republican Governor Kim Reynolds proposed earlier this month. Education-related groups are offering varying reactions to the essentially one-percent funding boost House Republicans are advancing. Emily Piper, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of School Boards, says if legislators also find more money to address inequities in the school funding formula and extend the statewide sales tax for school infrastructure, it’s a “fairly decent” increase in state support.
“While we continue to have concerns about funding for schools, one percent is certainly far above what we thought we would receive going into the start of this legislative session,” Piper says.
Melissa Peterson, a lobbyist for the Iowa State Education Association — the union that represents Iowa teachers, says a one percent hike in general state aid to schools is disappointing.
“We are in the at least the eighth year of inadequate funding for our public schools,” she says. “We are cutting to the bone in a number of districts and we have significant concerns about what this level of funding will mean the future of our public education.”
Brad Hudson, another lobbyist for the Iowa State Education Association, says given the way the state’s school finance formula is structured, schools with stable or declining enrollment will be hard pressed to make ends meet.
“We should really be looking at somewhere in the range of $130 million or somewhere north of three to three-and-a-half percent,” Hudson says. “I don’t think we’re telling the kids they’re a priority in this and I think that’s a shame and we’ve done it for a number of years.”
Margaret Buckton, representing both the Urban Education Network — the state’s largest schools — and the Rural School Advocates of Iowa, says a one percent boost would be appreciated and the two organizations will likely support the plan, but she says most school districts “with consistent enrollment” are dealing with an expected three percent budget increase in the next academic year.
“Our parents, our stakeholders should continue to expect to see some tough choices at the local board table,” Buckton says. “We do appreciate continued conversations about transportation formula equity and the state penny.”
The one percent statewide sales tax for school infrastructure is scheduled to end in 2029.
House Republicans are hoping to schedule a vote next week in the House on their per pupil spending level for next year. Senate Republicans have not yet revealed their preferred level of state taxpayer support for public schools.