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Iowa Lawmakers Pass K-12 School Funding Agreement

Iowa Capitol
John Pemble
IPR file
The agreement splits the difference between the 2.5 percent increase the governor and House Republicans proposed, and the 2.1 percent increase Senate Republicans wanted.

Iowa’s K-12 public schools will get a 2.3 percent per-student funding increase this fall under a deal passed Wednesday by the Iowa House and Senate.

In late January, the House and Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed a 2.5 percent school funding increase, and the Senate suggested 2.1 percent. This week, they met in the middle with $85.57 million in new public school base funding.

The movement comes nearly three weeks after a deadline passed for lawmakers to approve education funding.

“I applaud our efforts to find a number that we are going to be able to fulfill, not a number that we are going to have to backtrack on later,” said Sen. Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire. “And that we can give it to them early enough that school districts across the state can count on this number when they are fulfilling their promises to our students.”

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said it’s too little too late, and the state can afford to do more.

“The amount proposed here, whether it’s 2.1 or 2.3 or 2.5, would not be sufficient to make up for losses due to inflation over the four-year period,” Quirmbach said.

Some Democrats and education groups called for a 3 percent increase for the next school year, while others asked for a 3.5 percent increase.

The bill passed the Senate 31-17 along party lines. Later the same day, it passed the House 51-46 with one Republican voting against.

Democrats criticized the Republican-led legislature for not coming to an agreement sooner. Republicans did not shed much light on the reason for the delay, except to say that they were negotiating.

School districts have until mid-April to certify their budgets, but need time ahead of that to notify the public and hold board meetings.

Reynolds signed additional funding into law February 25. That bill gave $7.65 million to school districts with disproportionately high transportation costs, and $5.8 million for districts that get less per-pupil funding, for a total of $99.02 million in new K-12 funding.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter