116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Now that the Iowa House and Senate have agreed to increase Supplemental State Aid (SSA) to K-12 by 2.25 percent in fiscal year 2017, the political spin has already begun. Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are claiming that this bipartisan agreement 'underfunds education.” Following are the facts about education funding.
K-12 funding makes up approximately $3 billion of Iowa's $7.351 billion budget, or roughly 42 percent. It is far and away the largest chunk of Iowa's budget. When coupled with the Regents universities and community colleges, education accounts for fully 55 percent of Iowa's budget. With that much committed, educating our kids and workforce is clearly our state's top priority.
Next year's budget is restrained by the 99 percent legal expenditure limitation to $7.351 billion, which will be less than our ongoing revenue. Given that the state appropriated approximately $7.175 billion in our current year, that amount is automatically built into the base for next year. As a result, the state has only $176 million in new revenue to spend without breaking the legal limit. Any increases in the state budget must total less than that $176 million. Just like Iowa families and businesses, we will not spend more than we take in.
The agreement reached on K-12 funding dedicates $153.8 million in new money to K-12 schools. That represents 87 percent of our available new revenue, leaving only $23 million for the rest of the state's needs. Dedicating 87 percent of new revenue to only 42 percent of the budget is a conscious decision to put education first. This decision is not without consequences, however, as other elements of the budget must live with status quo or decreased budgets.
Under Republican leadership in the House, this will be the 6th year in a row that schools receive a funding increase. In fact, ongoing funding for education has increased in that time by $660 million. In just the last two years alone, I have voted for over $300 million in K-12 increases. Just as important, schools in the Cedar Rapids, Marion, Linn-Mar, College Community and Mount Vernon school districts have been able to depend on that funding, which equates to an increase of fully $8.8 million next year. Previous regimes made an ugly habit of passing unsustainable funding increases that led to unfunded promises and across the board cuts.
Some claim that the last 6 years have seen uncharacteristically low K-12 funding. This couldn't be further from the truth. In the fiscal years between 2012-2017, SSA real growth, accounting for inflation, has grown 5.98 percent. That is an average of approximately 1 percent above inflation annually, which is almost double the average annual real increase of .55 percent over the last 44 years. This is even more significant when you consider that other state employees, military veterans, and social security recipients are receiving significantly smaller increases relative to inflation.
Perhaps this is why, according to the Iowa Department of Education, the number of full-time teachers in the state has grown by 809 in those 6 years despite only modest enrollment gains. In fact, the number of full-time teachers has finally recovered to the same approximate number as that which existed before the previous administration did calamitous across-the-board cuts.
In sum, the dedication of 42 percent of the overall budget and 87 percent of new revenue to K-12 shows our commitment to education. The last 6 years have seen a significant investment in education, with $660 million more in spending at almost double the historical inflation-adjusted rate. These increases have created a net hiring of 809 teachers across the state at a time of relatively level enrollment. These facts show that any problems related to school budgets have much more to do with out-of-control costs than with insufficient state funding.
And those are the facts about education funding.
' Rep. Ken Rizer, R-Marion, is chairman of the House Standing Budget Review Subcommittee. Comments: Ken.Rizer@legis.iowa.gov