IOWA LEGISLATURE

Statehouse Republicans agree to 2.3 percent school funding boost

The ornamental decorations of the Iowa Capitol dome are seen from outside in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (And
The ornamental decorations of the Iowa Capitol dome are seen from outside in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Public K-12 schools are in line for a 2.3 percent state funding boost under an agreement reached Tuesday by state lawmakers.

The increase in general state aid is scheduled for the 2020-21 school budget year, and amounts to $85.6 million statewide in new funding amid a $3.4 billion public K-12 education budget, legislative leaders said.

“I am pleased to reach this agreement with the House. It provides sustainable, predictable, and reliable funding for school districts across Iowa,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said in a statement. “Iowa leads the nation in graduation rate, average ACT score, and concurrent enrollment. This continued investment will help schools continue that record of achievement.”

The funding increase is a down-the-middle compromise between the legislative chambers, both of which are controlled by Republicans. Previously, the House passed a 2.5 percent increase — which matched Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal — and the Senate passed a 2.1 percent increase.

Legislative Democrats proposed a 3 percent increase.

“This agreement continues our historic record of investment in Iowa’s schools,” House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said in a statement.

Earlier this session, lawmakers approved an additional $13.5 million in public K-12 school funding to address transportation costs at rural districts and per-pupil spending inequities at some districts.

Republican leaders said they expect to debate and approve the general aid funding bills Wednesday. If the proposal passes, it will go to Reynolds for her approval. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a question asking whether she will support the proposal.

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If legislators debate and approve the school funding bills Wednesday, it will come exactly three weeks after state law required school funding be set for the next school year. The state law does not include a punishment for when legislators fail to make the deadline.

School districts must have their budgets certified by April 15.

Public school funding has been an annual partisan sticking point in the Iowa Legislature, with Democrats annually calling for more than Republicans.

In the first 38 years under the current state school funding formula, general school funding increased by less than 3 percent only five times. In the past 10 years, during which Republicans have controlled one or both legislative chambers, general school funding has increased less than 3 percent nine times.

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