DES MOINES — The Iowa Senate voted 32-17 Tuesday to approve a 2.2 percent increase in base funding for K-12 schools next fiscal year along with extra money to fund transportation and other equity issues along with one-time money to deal with issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This bill is responsible, it’s sustainable, it’s reasonable and it is equitable,” said Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, before 31 Republicans and one Democrat voted to pass Senate File 269 and send it to the House, where majority Republicans have a slightly different version.
The current $3.381 billion general-fund appropriation to fund elementary and secondary schools in Iowa provides $7,048 per pupil in state supplemental aid to cover yearly instruction costs. According to the Legislative Services Agency, the Senate approach would boost spending by $170 per student to $7,218 in fiscal 2022.
“This is radical, extreme underfunding of our school districts,” said Sen. Eric Giddens, D-Cedar Falls. “Please vote no.”
Majority House Republicans proposed a K-12 funding package with a 2.5 percent base funding increase that matched Gov. Kim Reynolds’ initial offer.
The House GOP proposal, which awaits floor debate, would boost that per-pupil funding by $186 to $7,234 if approved.
Bills in both the Senate and the House included language that would, if passed, allocate additional money to some schools to offset the cost of in-person learning during the pandemic. Along with the base funding, the House GOP proposal would distribute $30 million based on how many days during the fall semester each district had students in the classroom between August and January.
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The Senate GOP’s plan would provide an extra $65 per student to every district, excluding Des Moines public schools, which for a time defied a state order for in-person instruction.
The two chambers still have to negotiate a compromise under a state law that sets a 30-day timeline for K-12 education funding to be decided as the first major state budget decision of the session.
During Tuesday’s Senate debate, minority Democrats tried unsuccessfully to boost base funding by 3.75 percent for fiscal 2022, arguing the state could afford to spend more given a $305 million budget surplus and more than $700 million in cash and economic emergency “rainy day” reserves.
Without more state funding, Democrats argued, property owners in 141 school districts with declining enrollment would be assessed about $28 million in higher levies under a budget guarantee that would fund any increases they receive via local property taxes.
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