Under the Golden Dome, Too

Discussing the K-12 Supplemental State Aid

With Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow earlier this week, it appears we will be enduring winter's fury for at least six more weeks.  Nonetheless, I'm hopeful we will experience at least some relief from the record-breaking bitter cold temperatures in the coming days!

Each legislative session a great deal of discussion surrounds education funding.  These conversations are beginning to increase as we approach a deadline to set Supplemental State Aid (previously referred to as Allowable Growth) for K-12 schools.  Currently, state law requires the Legislature to set a growth percentage for education funding two years in advance of when the funds will be used.  

However, over the past several years, we have advocated for changing the law.  Rather than setting a seemingly arbitrary amount, wouldn't it make more sense to have a better understanding of how much revenue will actually be available to provide to our schools? 

When families make financial commitments several years into the future, they only do so when they have a clear picture of what their resources will be.  

Making a funding promise to schools without knowing other budget factors, including the amount of revenue available, does not work. 

The Legislature's track record under the current law highlights the need for change.  Since 2002, the Legislature has failed to meet its commitment to funding our schools six times.  If you add up the total amount the Legislature has shorted our schools in the last 13 years, it is almost $600 million.

It has become increasingly evident that setting an increase in state aid for schools two years in advance, without regard for revenue or other obligations, is irresponsible.  This is a lesson the state and schools have learned the hard way.  

Over the last three years we have taken a different approach.  We have committed to school funding at the same time we set the state's two-year budget. 

This has proven to be successful as we have seen education funding increase and have avoided underfunding our commitments.  

We are committed to ensuring our schools have the resources they need to meet the needs of our children. We know there is very little that strengthens Iowa's economy more than a strong education system. We are proud of the commitment we have made to our schools over the past three years.  In fact, the state's share of education funding is currently at its highest level in the last 30 years.  During the 2014-2015 school year, Iowa will spend approximately $10,000 per K-12 student.

We will continue to work with the Senate and Governor to change the law so we are best able to honor our commitments and provide the most stable funding for our schools. We will not revert to the days of overpromising and overspending.

As always, I appreciate hearing from you!  Please continue to contact me with any feedback at 515-281-4618 or linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov.