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2.4 percent more for school districts

Governor Kim Reynolds signs funding package for fiscal year 2022

DES MOINES– School administrators and boards of education have a degree of certainty as they put together their budgets for the next fiscal year (FY). Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an education funding package on Tuesday, Feb. 23, which sets a 2.4 percent increase over last year’s amount of state supplemental aid for the state’s 327 school districts. The state’s school aid funding formula provides dollars to districts and Area Education Agencies (AEAs) by combining state aid with property tax revenue on a per-student basis.
Per-student funding will increase from $7,048 to $7,227.
For the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Community School District, Superintendent Tim Kuehl said the district receives $1,452,624, which is a combination of a $179 increase per student based on current enrollment, as well as 135 new students.
“We are fortunate to be one of a smaller than normal group of districts that saw our certified enrollment grow this year,” Kuehl said.
It is the opposite for the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD). The district saw a reduction of nearly 288 students due primarily to COVID-19 concerns, Superintendent Matt Degner said. As a result, the ICCSD will only have one percent growth, or $1,027,000 in the regular program component of its budget, as determined by Iowa law, he said. “The overall district budget will increase by less than one percent for the next fiscal year subject to funding provided through the federal CARES Act legislation.”
The CARES Act appropriated money for school districts to address additional costs associated with responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, used for personal protective equipment, cleansers and sanitizers and computer hardware for online education. The legislature also approved additional funds for schools, which returned fulltime to onsite instruction.
Kuehl, on Wednesday, Feb. 24 was wading through the legislation to see how CCA would be affected.
“I know our having been hybrid (50 percent onsite/50 percent online) at the high school eliminates us from the full amount,” he said.
Matt Leeman, Assistant Superintendent for CCA was also attempting to decipher the legalese and funding formulas, but said, “I don’t know that we have the clarity yet being that we were on-site for K-8 since the start of the (school) year and hybrid for the high school until Feb. 16.”
Gov. Reynolds issued a proclamation requiring all schools to offer a 100 percent onsite option starting on Monday, Feb. 15. However, extreme weather led CCA, and many other districts, to use the 15th as a virtual learning day in lieu of a snow day.
“How I read HF 532 (the legislation in question) is that we would get 50 percent credit for our days,” Leeman added.
In a statement, Reynolds said, “I am proud to once again sign legislation into law that supports our strong public education system in the state of Iowa. Our children are our greatest asset and we have to do everything we can to set them up for success. Our record of increasing school funding year-over-year shows our commitment to Iowa's public schools."
The percentage varies from year to year and was 2.6 percent in 2019, but dipped to 2.3 percent in 2020. Typically, some school districts begin to craft their budgets with a conservative assumption of a 0 percent or 1 percent increase, and then adjust once the amount is set.
In the Iowa Senate, the bill passed along party lines with 31 in favor and 18 opposed. Democratic Senators Kevin Kinney, Joe Bolkcom and Zach Wahls voted against the measure. In the Iowa House the vote, again along party lines, was 56 yeas and 36 nays with Republican Bobby Kaufmann in favor and Democrat Mary Mascher opposed. Democrats Dave Jacoby and Amy Nielsen were shown as absent/not voting.
Wahls (Senate Minority Leader) and Representative Todd Prichard (Charles City, House Minority Leader) penned an op-ed piece, running in the Feb. 25 edition of the Solon Economist and North Liberty Leader newspapers, excoriating the approved amount and calling for more education funding.
Wahls and Prichard cited the latest Annual Survey of School System Finance stating Iowa “now spends less money per-pupil than most of our neighboring states.” The pair also stated public school funding failed to keep up with a rising cost of living four out of the past five years, and 137 districts will see less funding than in 2021, prompting higher local property taxes.
“This is unacceptable,” they wrote.
School districts in Iowa are required by law to certify budgets by April 15.