DES MOINES — Iowa’s 327 school districts are getting a $13.1 million boost in state funding next fiscal year to cover transportation costs and to smooth out inequities in the formula used to disburse state aid and property tax proceeds that fund their operations.
The agreed-to funding pieces were included in Senate File 2164, the first education measure of 2020 that has garnered Gov. Kim Reynolds’ signature.
“We live in a disruptive, technologically driven economy, and if we aren’t preparing our students to succeed in the 21st century, then we are failing them,” Reynolds said Tuesday during a bill-signing ceremony in her formal office in the State Capitol.
“This legislation will help Iowa’s many rural school districts absorb transportation costs and put more money into the classroom,” she added. “Education is always a top priority, and we will continue to look for ways to provide every school, educator and student with the tools for success.”
Transportation equity was first funded in fiscal 2019 to help absorb transportation costs associated with students traveling across rural communities. The legislation signed Tuesday provides more than $7.2 million in new funding for the 204 school districts with transportation costs above the statewide average of $347.65 per pupil and provides $5.9 million for per-pupil spending equity.
With many rural school districts spanning large geographical areas, the governor noted, “transportation costs can quickly eat away at the quality of education. By providing a shock absorber for those costs, the state is able to help those districts succeed, which is so important for our rural quality of life.”
Regarding per-pupil spending equity, Reynolds said the $5.9 million will help narrow the gap in the amount districts are allowed to spend annually for each student, bringing it down from $165 per pupil to $155. That means 177 school districts will have an additional $10 per student to spend next year in addition to whatever increase in supplemental state aid the House and Senate can negotiate.
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Another 132 school districts will see property taxes decrease by $10, and 18 school districts will see a combination of a state aid increase and property tax relief, the governor said.
In her Condition of the State address last month, Reynolds called for more than $103 million in new funding for Iowa schools, including an increase in per-pupil funding and transportation equity. With that investment, she said, the state will have spent $13 billion on preK-12 since 2017.
Majority Republicans in the House and Senate are about $15 million apart on the K-12 state aid funding level that by law was to have been set by Feb. 13. GOP senators favor a 2.1 percent increase, while the House and Reynolds favor a 2.5 percent increase in base supplemental state aid for the next school year.
The governor has indicated she will settle for something close to the $100 million mark, which would roughly split the difference between the two competing plans.
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