Senate panel approves K-12 school funding shell bill as deadline nears
Senate panel approves K-12 school funding shell bill as deadline nears

Lawmakers said that the shell bill is a starting point for negotiations on Iowa’s rate of K-12 school funding for the next fiscal year. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Republican senators moved forward with this year’s State Supplemental Aid bill providing funding for Iowa’s K-12 schools — without specifying how much money they will provide.

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A three-member subcommittee passed Senate Study Bill 3122 on a 2-1 vote along party lines. The Legislature is quickly nearing its self-imposed deadline to pass per-pupil state aid for Iowa’s K-12 schools within 30 days of the release of the governor’s budget.

It may be difficult for lawmakers to meet that deadline this year. Feb. 8 will mark 30 days since Gov. Kim Reynolds released her budget proposal.

Education advocates urged senators to pass this year’s SSA bill as soon as possible so that Iowa school districts can complete their budgets.

“School districts need to be able to set their budgets,” Michelle Johnson with the Iowa Association of School Boards said. “The deadline is even, you know, sooner this year based on the property tax bill from last year, the school districts had to submit information to the Department of Management by March 15. So they would really prefer to know their SSA rate as soon as possible.”

Last year, lawmakers raised funding for SSA by 3% — one half percentage point higher than Gov. Kim Reynolds’ and Senate Republicans’ proposed 2.5% increase. Reynolds’ fiscal year 2025 budget proposal also includes a 2.5% SSA increase.

Reynolds also has proposed increasing teacher salaries and changing how the state manages and funds Area Education Agencies that provide special education services and other assistance to public schools.

Melissa Peters, representing the Iowa State Education Association, said educators recommend a minimum 4% increase in per-pupil state aid for the upcoming year.

“We have so many different conversations going around this Capitol, the AEA component, the compensation component, the maybe $10 million dollar merit-based grant that was mentioned in the governor’s Condition of the State, all of the things,” Peters said. “But we do know, the one thing we absolutely need is a (SSA) amount that will allow us to sustain Iowa programming, staffing, et cetera of all of our schools.”

Sen. Lynn Evans, R-Aurelia, said in an interview after the subcommittee meeting that the shell bill is a way to “get the ball rolling” on passing SSA for the upcoming school year, but that other education proposals like the governor’s proposal to modify Area Education Agencies may affect funding rates.

“As we start addressing some of these education bills and other bills that have price tags … that’s going to have an effect on the total education appropriations budget,” Evans said. “But you know, the governor has made her recommendation, 2.5%, that’s the starting point for negotiation. And as we settle some of these other things, I’m anticipating that number will change.”

The post Senate panel approves K-12 school funding shell bill as deadline nears appeared first on Iowa Capital Dispatch.


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