The Iowa legislature is back in session and once again, education issues are making headlines. While many people are talking about the potential change in school start dates, it is much more important for us to address school funding. We will continue to educate students no matter what days they are in school, but can’t do that without adequate funding.
Iowa’s economy is strong and the state coffers are full. The state is well positioned to sustain any significant economic challenge in the next several years. Now is the time for the state of Iowa to make education a priority.
Iowa ranks 35th in the nation in per pupil funding, $1612 below the national average per student in expenditures. Iowa’s percent change in spending per student, inflation-adjusted, from fiscal year 2008 through fiscal year 2014 is down $641 per student. Thirty-seven states have managed to do better for their schools, students and futures.
Governor Branstad and the House of Representatives have proposed a General Fund appropriation that equates to a growth rate of 1.25 percent for school funding for the 2016 fiscal year. In addition, the Governor recommended a General Fund appropriation that equates to a growth rate of 2.45 percent for the 2017 fiscal year. Recent years have seen the growth rate vary from 2 to 4 percent, with the exception of 2011-12 when legislators passed a 0 percent increase.
World class schools take more than third-world funding. The FDCSD, along with other Districts from around the state, is calling for the legislature to set the per pupil cost for fiscal year 2015-16 no lower than 6% as soon as possible, and the per pupil cost for 2016-17 at no lower than 6% by February 12, 2015. Iowa Code requires legislative action within 30 days of the governor’s budget (the deadline for fiscal year 2016 passed nearly a year ago).
Increased costs for our District typically run about 3.5 percent annually. This increase is just for the day to day operations of a district such as electricity, staff salaries, transportation, books, programs and meeting expectations in the Iowa core curriculum. Without a 6% increase, the FDCSD, and many other districts around the state, will be forced to make cuts. Fewer teachers means larger class sizes, a smaller number of course options and extra-curricular opportunities, and an overall diminished learning experience.
The education of our children must be a priority for the state of Iowa, and that means adequate and timely funding. Please contact Governor Branstad and our legislators asking them to make the necessary investment in public education. Our future depends on it.