Some geographically large Iowa school districts are spending more than $900 a year for each student who rides the bus to and from school. “Some of the larger school districts in some of the far-flung areas of the state are very expensive,” House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said Thursday during a statehouse news conference.
Upmeyer and other Republican lawmakers are offering to supplement some school transportation budgets, but in varying degrees. Republicans in the House are suggesting a $10 million boost for the coming year.
Republican Representative Walt Rogers of Cedar Falls said the money would go “to the most needy districts across the state who are struggling with transportation, especially in the rural areas.”
A year ago, Senate Republicans signalled they wanted to immediately send twice as much to schools for transporting kids to and from school. That plan eventually would have committed about $150 million a year in state money to supplement the budgets for busing in sprawling districts that primarily cover rural zip codes. Senator Amy Sinclair, a Republican from Allerton, said given current state budget realities, she understands why her GOP colleagues in the House favor spending less on school transportation.
“I prefer fixing problems rather than putting band-aids on them, but absolutely I’ll work with them to see if we can get something done that will at least alleviate that stress and help every child receive a high-quality education,” Sinclair said during an interview.
Sinclair said another bill pending in the legislature could help ease school budgets for busing. The bill would let elementary students ride the bus just as long as high school students — a one-way trip of 75 minutes. One district told legislators with students of any age riding the same bus, two bus routes could be eliminated and save the district $100,000 next year.