House Republicans are proposing a $106 million increase in general state aid to public schools for the next academic year. That’s a 3% increase and it’s higher than Governor Reynolds and Republicans in the state senate have proposed.

According to Margaret Buckton, a lobbyist for the Urban Education Network and the Rural School Advocates of Iowa, it would be the second highest increase for public schools in 14 years.

“So good that it’s the second highest,” Buckton said during a House subcommittee hearing, “but you’re still going to hear from school leaders that it doesn’t meet what they need to continue to do the work of schools without some rearrangements of budget and rearrangements of staff.”

Buckton said schools with decreasing enrollment will be able to keep classroom teachers, but may have to cut the most expensive programs, like apprenticeships and fine arts. Dave Daughton, a lobbyist for the School Administrators of Iowa, said a 5% increase would maintain services.

“A 3% increase for districts with declining enrollment is not a 3% increase because of the way the funding formula works,” Daughton told lawmakers. “It means they may get some additional funding, but it won’t be 3% and in some cases it will be less than the prior year.”

Over half of Iowa school districts have declining enrollment.

Republican Representative Craig Johnson of Independence indicated the bill will be approved soon, to give school boards time to complete budget plans by April 15. “I know there’s a lot of ‘this and that’ that goes on with the funding for schools, but the important thing is it comes down to the bottom line,” Johnson said. “We are increasing funding.”

The House GOP’s proposed funding increase for Iowa’s public school districts is roughly equal to the amount of money lawmakers expect private school parents will get in the coming year. The state-funded Education Savings Accounts will be available to low income parents who enroll a child in private school this fall.

Radio Iowa