Iowa Senate passes 1 percent school aid increase, compromises on equity, transportation funding

Cedar Rapids Community School District buses at the Education Leadership Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, August 7, 2014. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Community School District buses at the Education Leadership Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, August 7, 2014. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Iowa school districts will get a 1 percent increase in supplemental state aid — about $67 per student — under a plan approved by Republican senators Monday and shipped to Gov. Kim Reynolds for her expected signature.

The $32 million boost in state funding for K-12 schools passed the Senate on a 29-20 party-line vote. It will increase the per-pupil investment from the current $6,664 to $6,731 for fiscal 2019. At 1 percent, 183 of the state’s 333 school districts will be on the budget guarantee that means the state will backfill property taxes.

Senators approved House File 2230 without debate after agreeing to end an impasse with the Iowa House over education issues. The delay caused the Legislature to miss its self-imposed deadline of setting the school aid funding level within 30 days after the governor presented her budget Jan. 10.

The compromise was struck in a separate bill, Senate File 455, in which legislators agreed to make a one-year commitment to appropriating $11.2 million for busing students to and from school and to also devote $2.8 million to addressing an inequity in per-pupil funding. That bill passed on a bipartisan 44-5 vote, with four Democrats and one independent opposed. That bill also is headed to the governor’s desk.

“This is a monumental first step,” said Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, in agreeing to accept the House’s one-year approach rather than the multiyear commitment previously approved by the Senate.

“This is a fix that can work,” Smith added. “It’s reasonable, sustainable and prudent.”

However, Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said Senate Republicans “wimped out” in their negotiations with their House counterparts, “caving in” to the representatives by “kicking the can down the road with a measly little injection of money. I think that is pathetic.”


Under the compromise SF 455 bill, 140 of the state’s 333 school districts will get a share of the $11.2 million for busing. Transportation costs run as high as $970 per pupil per year at North Winneshiek. The plan would buy down the district share of those costs to $432 per pupil, said Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, the Senate Education Committee chairwoman.

The compromise plan also calls for adding $5 per student to the per-pupil allocation for 161 districts. In those districts, there is a $175-per-pupil inequity in the funding. The additional $2.8 million would close the gap by $5.

“I truly believe that a student’s ZIP code shouldn’t determine the quality of education that they get,” Sinclair said. “Our hope is to bring the district cost per pupil to the same level for every school district over the course of time.”

Also Monday, the Iowa Senate approved legislation making clear that a practice used by many Iowa businesses to deliver pay statements to employees is indeed legal. House File 2240, which passed 47-2 and is headed to the governor’s desk, says employers can deliver pay statement to employees electronically.

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