A Senate panel advanced a deal Tuesday by Republican statehouse leaders to increase funding for Iowa’s K-12 public schools for the 2019-2020 school year.
It would provide a 2.06 percent increase in base funding, which is an additional $78.6 million. A separate proposal aimed at reducing historical inequities in funding and transportation costs across school districts brings the proposed total up to $89.3 million in new dollars for next year.
“We’ve worked to select a number that is responsible and sustainable,” said Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “One we can fund. Not one we’ll have to take back.”
Margaret Buckton, a lobbyist for urban and rural school organizations, said she supports the full set of funding proposals, including a separate sales tax extension for school infrastructure.
“If it was just 2.06 percent without the equity and with no SAVE [Secure an Advanced Vision for Education] extension, it would still be a very austere budget for schools, especially those with declining enrollment,” Buckton said.
The proposed funding increase is more than double last year’s, but it’s a bit less than what the governor requested.
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed a 2.3 percent base funding increase, or $89.6 million. She had also requested $11.2 million for transportation equity, $3 million to train teachers to recognize signs of mental illness, and $1 million for STEM initiatives.
“They’re not that much less,” Reynolds said of lawmakers’ funding plan. “They just allocated it a little differently than I did.”
Reynolds said it’s a “significant investment” in education, and she will keep advocating for mental health and STEM funding. Those decisions would be separate from the proposals currently being considered.
Brad Hudson with the Iowa State Education Association said he wants to see a bigger funding increase.
“With the number of years we’ve had some low funding, we were looking for somewhere around 3 percent or higher,” Hudson said.
Sen. Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, agreed.
“I would’ve like to see closer to 3 percent,” Celsi said. “But I talked to a lot of folks today. It could’ve been worse.”
House lawmakers are considering the same education funding package.