Iowa legislators differ on school funding, but advocates say it’s still not enough.

By: - January 30, 2020 5:11 pm

(Photo by Getty Images)

Republicans in the Iowa House have proposed increasing supplemental state aid for K-12 schools by 2.5%, while Senate Republicans are proposing a 2.1% increase. 

Both of those numbers still don’t adequately fund Iowa schools as they face increasing costs however, education advocates said Thursday at the Capitol.

Iowa Senate Republicans want to add $76 million in supplemental state aid for schools — a number they believe is adequate for districts and also leaves enough dollars for other legislative priorities. Senate leaders noted they are proposing additional dollars for transportation and other purposes.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are proposing a $95 million increase, similar to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal, that they do not plan on lowering, said Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, R-Mount Ayr. 

He said leadership will come together to settle on a number that works for both chambers.

“The House is committed as strong as we can to stay at this number,” Dolecheck said.

Still, even the 2.5% increase isn’t sufficient for Iowa schools, said Kalyn Cody, a Des Moines school board member. He said after years of underfunding, Des Moines schools has been forced to let go of staff, particularly counselors and behavioral coaches, which makes managing classrooms difficult.

At the high school level, he said class sizes are also increasing to 35 to 40 students in math or science.

“New money isn’t keeping up with our needs,” Cody said.  “We don’t want 40 kids per class.”

Iowa Democrats in the House and Senate recommend an increase of at least 3%.

Breaking down the budget, both the Iowa Senate and House are recommending an increase of more than $7 million for transportation costs and an additional $10 per pupil or nearly $6 million to address property tax inequities. 

Senate Republicans are also recommending adding $2.5 million to address violent student behavior.

In total, Iowa House leaders said they are recommending a more than $107 million increase in education funding while Iowa Senate leaders said they are proposing a $91.7 million increase.

Both bills passed through their subcommittees and are expected to reach full committee next week.

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