A House panel has sent the education committee a bill that would help school districts with high transportation costs. Some rural districts spend twice as much as the state average on getting students to school.
If signed into law, the proposal would immediately start to phase in transportation aid over the next five years, and the program would continue after that.
Rep. Tedd Gassman, (R-Scarville), says he has been working on this issue for six years.
“You can’t argue with me about, if I’m going to take $300, $400, or $700 out of a classroom compared to other schools that that isn’t an inequity,” Gassman says. “And it needs to be fixed.”
Rep. Art Stead, (D-Cedar Rapids), signed off on the bill, but says he would prefer to move forward with a bill from last year that provides more funding.
“So my concern is that this patch, and I’ll call it a patch, is helpful,” Stead says. “But I hope it’s not the death knell for Senate File 455.”
“I think it’s so important to get something started that we can afford right now,” Gassman says. “And we can’t afford Senate File 455.”
Gassman says after the five-year rollout, the program would cost about $8.6 million each year.
The student transportation aid bill considered during the 2017 legislative session was expected to cost the state more than $200 million over a decade.
House Republicans Thursday also announced a one-time commitment to spend $10 million in the next fiscal year to help school districts with high transportation costs.
“It’s intended to be a fund that we will continue to have,” says Rep. Walt Rogers, the Republican chair of the House Education Committee. “At this point, we’re committed to putting $10 million into it this year.”