DES MOINES — A 2.1 percent general funding boost for Iowa’s K-12 public schools is on its way to the governor’s desk for approval.
The Iowa Senate approved Wednesday the overall $3.3 billion school funding package, which includes more money for districts with high transportation costs and for per-pupil spending levels in fiscal 2020.
The package, previously passed by the Iowa House, heads to Gov. Kim Reynolds for her approval. Reynolds, who called for similar funding levels in her budget proposal last month, said she’ll sign it.
“With the Iowa Legislature’s approval of historic preK-12 school funding, we can continue moving forward in preparing our young people for the challenges of a 21st century economy,” Reynolds said in a statement. “I look forward to signing this legislation shortly after it reaches my desk because it’s a critical piece for our local schools districts to have in place as they plan for the next school year. Without question, Iowans are the true winners as a result of this year’s record investment in education.”
The 2.1 percent increase in general funding, which the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimates to be worth nearly $80 million, is a higher ratio increase than in the previous two budget years, which saw increases of just 1.1 percent and 1 percent. But it still lags the pre-2008 recession norm of 4 percent increases.
“Iowa prioritizes education,” said Sen. Amy Sinclair, a Republican from Allerton and the chairwoman of the Senate’s Education Committee. “The bill before you is a responsible and sustainable measure that will continue the great history that we have here.”
Senate Democrats proposed a 3-percent boost, which was rejected by a party-line vote.
The 2.1 percent increase “doesn’t even make up for inflation for the last two years, and it does nothing for inflation for the next year,” said Sen. Herman Quirmbach from Ames, the top Democrat on the Senate’s Education Committee. A 3-percent increase “at least adds a little bit more.”
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The bill passed largely on a party-line vote with three Democrats — Sens. Liz Mathis of Hiawatha, Tony Bisignano of Des Moines and Kevin Kinney of Oxford — joining Republicans in support.
In addition to the increase in supplemental aid, the package also includes $19 million for districts whose transportation costs — especially in rural areas — make up a larger share of their general budget than others’. That is an increase of $7.9 million over the previous budget year.
It also boosts district per-pupil spending levels by $5 per student, which translates to $2.3 million in new funding. Districts with higher per-pupil costs will get state aid to replace funds that would have come from local property taxes. Districts like Davenport, with lower per-pupil expenditures called for under an earlier formula, would receive additional spending authority.
Iowa’s school districts have until April 15 to approve budgets for the 2019-20 academic year.