Ever since I’ve served in the Iowa House, one of my favorite days during the legislative session is when FFA students come to visit. On Tuesday, the entire Capitol was flooded with kids in blue jackets from all over the state, visiting with their elected officials! I was lucky enough to have a chance to meet with some of the students from the Tall Corn FFA Chapter.
This week we finalized our deappropriation bill to ensure the state lives within its means. This bill made a number of budget reductions to the current fiscal year after projected revenues have come in lower than anticipated. The reason for the lower revenue is largely due to a slumping agricultural economy and the effects it has had on other industries across the state. We had to make some very difficult decisions during this process, but it was necessary to ensure we have a balanced budget.
We’ve also been moving quickly to set Supplemental State Aid to schools in a timely manner. We know that it’s very important to our schools to have funding set early on so they can get to work planning their budgets for the upcoming school year. We recognize that this is incredibly important to school boards and superintendents and want to provide them with certainty.
In addition to holding K-12 education harmless from any reductions in the deappropriations bill, we’re proposing to increase funding for schools by $40 million, bringing total investment in K-12 to $3.237 billion. Over the last six years we’ve invested an additional $640 million into K-12 education. It’s clear that K-12 education remains the state’s top priority, accounting for more than 43% of Iowa’s General Fund budget each year. We moved our funding proposal out of committee early this week and are expecting to debate it on the House floor early next week. This will ensure that schools can begin setting their budgets.
In addition to providing our schools with more resources, we’re also looking at ways to give them more flexibility with how they use those dollars. We’ve heard from many school leaders about different pots of money that are currently reserved for specific purposes that sit unused every year, collecting even more money. We should look for ways to provide our schools boards with more local control to make decisions that are best for their individual districts.
Last session the House passed a bill that would have allowed schools to use money reserved for professional development on things like curriculum and textbooks. We heard from several superintendents that this would be a helpful change.
In addition to flexibility, we’re also going to take a look at various inequities facing schools across the state. Schools in Des Moines don’t resemble those in Clear Lake or Hampton, and they all face their own unique challenges. We recognize these challenges and are committed to exploring solutions to ease some of these inequities.
We will continue studying these issues and look for ways to provide flexibility and resolve inequities. I encourage superintendents and school leaders from across the state to let us know what would be helpful to them. I look forward to continuing this conversation to give schools the tools they need to ensure our children receive the best education possible.
As the session continues to move along, please stay in touch. Legislation and budgets will soon start moving through their process, so please let me know your thoughts. You can reach me at email@example.com or (515) 281-3521.