Increasing School Funding Problems to ‘Survive’


Grace King Cedar Rapids Gazette

Educators are calling for a 5% increase in funding for Iowa’s public schools to help retain and recruit staff, reduce class sizes, manage increased operating costs, and provide funding for decades. He said it was important to make up for the shortfall.

Greg Battenhorst, Superintendent of Mount Vernon Schools, said the 5% increase is “survival.” According to Iowa school administrators, operating costs for school districts are increasing by about 3 to 4 percent each year. However, over the past decade, state subsidies have increased by an average of less than 2.1%.

Iowa legislators must set a growth rate for state subsidies for the first 30 days of each legislative session beginning Monday this year.

Cedar Rapids’ interim superintendent of schools, Art Sussoff, said the education budget should be a “sacred cow.” He thinks it’s realistic to increase state subsidies by 5%, given the economy. “My fear is that it will come at the cost of years to come,” he said.

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Inflation, which has risen about 8% in Iowa this year, is further pushing school district budgets, educators say. Declining enrollment rates in many school districts exacerbate the problem, with the state’s per-student formula at about $7,400 per student. The Cedar Rapids Community School District, for example, has lost about 1,400 students over the past five years, Sasoff said.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitber said the state provides “reliable and sustainable” funding for Iowa’s schools. “Since 2017, no state budget has seen more new funding than K-12 education. Since 2017, K-12 funding has increased by more than $500 million,” he said.

On the other hand, he said the labor shortage is not unique to education or Iowa. “This is an issue that affects every sector of the economy,” he said. “Over the past few years, Congress has passed several different loan repayment incentives, relaxed unnecessary licensing requirements for educators, and lowered taxes for all working families to keep more of what they earn. made it possible.”

Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley (R-New Hartford) agrees. “We are spending more money in the state on K-12 today than ever before,” he said.

Iowa House Minority Leader Jennifer Confust, D-Winsor Heights, said Democrats will continue to fight for more funding for “barely needed” education.

Republicans have stopped funding public schools in Iowa, said Iowa Senate Minority Leader Zach Walls (D-Coralville).

“It is clear that we need to invest more in the next generation of teachers, strengthen our pipeline, increase teacher salaries and reduce class sizes,” he said. “They are good for teachers and good for students.”

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Another priority for Iowa school districts is for the state to provide adequate funding for preschool for four-year-olds. According to the Iowa City Community School District’s legislative priorities, children who participate in early childhood programs like preschool are healthier and have better social-emotional and cognitive outcomes.

Studies show that students who have access to preschool for their four-year-olds are less likely to repeat grades, are less likely to be seen as having special needs, and are less likely to be academically prepared for later grades. have been shown to be more likely to graduate from high school.

“Children who have not had access to quality preschool education will begin their K-12 school experience behind their peers,” said Batenhorst of Mount Vernon. “The key to preschool is learning how to work and play with others.

Currently, Iowa’s statewide Voluntary Preschool Program funds free half-day preschool for 4-year-olds. Half-day programs can be a barrier for dual-income households who cannot find pre- and post-care or transportation for their children.

Confurst said Democrats would be “strongly pushing” to fully fund preschool for four-year-olds this year.

Republican leaders Whitber and Grassley said it was up to the school board to fully fund preschool for four-year-olds.

‘Amazing need’ for mental health services

According to the Iowa City Community School District’s legislative priorities, state educators are also calling for increased funding for mental health services to address “an alarming need” statewide.

According to the American Psychological Association, 1 in 5 children in the United States has a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among middle and high school students.

“Our teachers weren’t trained to be therapists, but the growing social and emotional needs of the classroom have made them a de facto role.” says Batenhorst.

Many school districts have contracts with mental health providers to provide counseling services to students, and demand is very high.

“We need to encourage more providers to come to Iowa and educate more providers to provide services for children,” said Konfrst. “The mental health problems of children with this condition are far from resolved. It takes some care to achieve.”

Grassley agrees that we need more providers. “We could put all the money in the world into this,” he said, but there just wasn’t anyone to fill the job. Incentives need to be created to attract workers to the profession and to rural Iowa, he said.

Enabling school districts to provide mental health services to teachers and staff is just as important, said Sussoff of Cedar Rapids.

“There is no more complicated and less stressful teaching job,” he said.

Caleb McCullough of The Gazette-Lee De Moines Bureau contributed to this report.


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