March 05, 2021

Funding for K-12 schools

One of the most important tasks the legislative body does each year is to appropriate funding for K-12 schools. Iowa has a long proud tradition of prioritizing public education funding that invests in the education of our future leaders.

Education bill Senate File 269 replaced HF 438 at the start of the House debate about State Supplemental School Aid (SSA) (school funding) for Iowa schools for fiscal year 2022. There are some COVID-related unique circumstances this year that affect funding formulas. The statewide school count Oct. 1, 2020, showed 6,000 fewer students enrolled in public schools than the previous year. This drop was created by a number of factors including parents holding back their Kindergarten and pre-K children and deciding to do virtual or home-schooling. SF 269/HF438 does not consider the school count drop nor is it even equal to last year’s funding despite school districts’ extra costs in coronavirus mitigation efforts like PPE, ventilation fixes, additional cleaning costs and increased substitute teaching expenses.

SF 269/HF438 calls for a 2.4 percent increase in school funding. There is a budget guarantee which is the amount made up entirely of local property taxes to guarantee a school district receives 101 percent of the previous year’s funding level. The budget guarantee is based on actual enrollment and occurs only when a district is experiencing an enrollment decline greater than the school funding percentage increase. The lower the percentage of school funding, the more districts will be placed on the budget guarantee and be forced to make up the difference in increased property taxes. (Likewise, the higher the school funding, the fewer number of districts will be on the budget guarantee and property taxes will decrease.) Under SF 269/HF438, 137 Iowa school districts will receive less funding and be on the budget guarantee which can lead to an increase in property taxes. Newton, Colfax-Mingo, Lynnville-Sully and Prairie City-Monroe are on the list of 137 schools on budget guarantee and may lead to an increase in property tax. When the state fails to give adequate funding, it trickles down to property owners. We should not be balancing the state budget on the backs of cities and counties.

HSB167 — I’m happy to report that a bill which expands the beginning farmers tax credit program passed unanimously out of the agriculture committee this week and heads to the House floor.

HSB 185 is a large bill concerning biofuels also put forward by the Governor. It was just introduced earlier this week and a subcommittee will meet next week. I will keep you posted on the bill’s details and progress.