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K-12 Funding Running Late In Iowa Legislature

John Pemble
IPR file
State law requires the legislature to pass education funding within the first 30 days of the session. That came and went last week.

State lawmakers are behind schedule when it comes to passing funding for K-12 education. Republican leaders in the Iowa House and Senate still have not come to an agreement on how to reconcile their competing proposals.

State law requires the legislature to pass education funding within the first 30 days of the session, a deadline that came and went last week. There is no official consequence for legislators, but an extended delay could create problems for schools writing budgets for next year.

Senate Republicans have approved a 2.1 percent increase in base funding for schools. House Republicans are seeking 2.5 percent, which is nearly $20 million more and matches what Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds requested. House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said the conversation will continue.

“Our caucus feels pretty strongly about the proposal the governor laid out,” Grassley said Thursday. “So we’d like to be at least at those levels. That’s the feedback we’re getting from the caucus right now.”

The delay gives schools less time to prepare budgets, according to Margaret Buckton, who lobbies for groups representing both urban and rural districts. She said schools have until April 15 to publish their budgets, but first they must provide public notice and hold board meetings.

“So really our functional deadline is the middle of March,” Buckton said. “We’re 2-3 weeks away from that functional deadline.”

Buckton said the difference between the two chambers' plans could be critical for some districts, especially those with declining enrollments who expect to see a reduction in state support. The change in funding from one proposal to the other could flip decisions on hiring or firing staff.

Grassley said he has heard the concerns about managing budget schedules. He said schools have enough information to prepare budgets based on the two proposals and plug in the final numbers.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa