Local school officials say formula increase is less than inflation
DES MOINES – Today, Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law the first bill of the 2022 legislative session. House File 2316 increases the state’s public education budget for fiscal year 2023 by 2.5% per pupil, resulting in $159 million in new money for Iowa’s public schools.
However, local officials say the funding doesn’t go far enough to assist schools with inflationary pressures and cost-of-living increases.
“Providing a quality education for the next generation of Iowans is one of our most important responsibilities,” Reynolds said. “The state’s significant and responsible funding increases year-over-year for more than a decade helps ensure that Iowa has the strong public education system necessary to support the success of our students and our state.”
Fifty-six percent of the state’s entire budget funds public education alone. In fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1 of this year, that amount will total more than $3.6 billion. Eighty percent of the education budget goes to preK-12 schools including more than $3.5 billion for state foundation school aid and nearly $29.5 million for transportation equity, according to the state’s release.
Additionally, the state’s investments in STEM education, work-based learning, and registered apprenticeship programs enhance the educational experience for Iowa students.
More than $700 million in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds remain unused by Iowa’s public school districts for pandemic relief. Information and guidance on the relief packages are available on the Iowa Department of Education website here.
However, Fort Madison Community School District Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater said those funds are issued as reimbursements. She said the district has allocated most of their ESSER Funds and has to spend them before the funds can be accessed.
“For example, the FMCSD will be using $2 million dollars of ESSER funds this summer to do a heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) project for the FMHS gym. The district is excited to upgrade the system in our main high school gym which includes air conditioning!” Slater said
“The dollars however will not show as expended until after the project is completed late this summer and we apply for reimbursement the following quarter which will be in the Fall of 2022,” she said.
“We are grateful for the federal ESSER dollars that have allowed FMCSD to begin our Jump Start summer and after school programs, added pre-school classes, increased the number of teachers to lower elementary class sizes, buy additional cleaning supplies, purchase large TV systems for classrooms, and providing hot spots for families needing internet services for learning to name a few examples of how FMCSD is utilizing federal ESSER dollars to provide what’s best for kids.”
Slater said those funds are available to use through June 2024.
Central Lee Community School District Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier said the district is thankful for the additional spending authority, but said it falls well below the rate of inflation.
“I appreciate the legislature working to pass this in a timely manner so we can set our budgets for FY23. With 7% inflation, 2.5% is not adequate. Our expenses for next year will certainly exceed the new dollars for the district,” Crozier said.
“I understand the legislature wants to pass tax cuts – we believe they could have passed tax cuts and adequately funded public education. While you will hear claims of substantial investment in public education, Iowa ranks 40th in the nation in increased funding over the past ten years.”
Slater had a similar reaction to the per pupil funding increase.
“The district appreciates the work of Iowa legislators and the governor for budgetary support. 2.5% (Student Supplemental Aid) for FMCSD financially results in 1% of new money which is $150,285 for the 2022-2023 school year,” Slater said.
“However, CPI, inflation, cost of living, etc. hovers around 3%. SSA would need to be at 4.75% in order for the district to capture 3% of new money to keep up with the previously mentioned increases with inflation and costs.”
Reynolds also issued information today about how teachers, law enforcement officers, and child care workers can claim their pandemic-related $1,000 retention bonuses, which she announced last month.
“I can’t thank each of these dedicated public servants enough for their persistence during one of the most difficult times in our state and nation,” said Gov. Reynolds. “This is one way we are able to thank them for coming to work each day to positively impact our children and keep our communities a safer place.”
$1,000 premium pay lump-sum payments will be disbursed through different funding sources and therefore have different processes and tracking requirements.
Teachers: The Department of Education will work to issue payments to qualifying teachers at public schools, accredited nonpublic schools, independently accredited nonpublic schools, and state-operated schools through their respective employer.
Certified Peace Officers: Local law enforcement agencies will request payment on behalf of their qualifying employees through Iowa Grants Online. Submissions will be reviewed by the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy prior to payment via mailed individual check by the Department of Administrative Services. Certified peace officers employed by the State of Iowa will receive payment through their regular state paycheck.
Corrections Personnel: Qualifying Department of Corrections corrections officers and medical personnel will receive payment through their regular state paycheck.
Child Care Workers: Qualifying child care workers will be able to apply through the Department of Human Services’ web page starting later this month.
Crozier announced last week that Central Lee would be using a portion of ESSER funds to give teachers and staff bonuses, in addition to the $1,000 state-guaranteed bonuses, resulting in a $2,000 bonus for teachers.
“We appreciate the additional bonus for our teachers. With our action last week though, our district made sure we honored all employees who have worked hard over the past two years.”
Slater said the retention bonus is a good step forward to reward work during the pandemic.
“The $1,000 retention bonus in HF236 is a positive in recognizing the work of Iowa school district teachers,” she said.
“There are many other non-teacher personnel who daily demonstrate hard work and dedication, and who also come to work each day to positively impact our children. This includes our support personnel, administrators, associates, social workers, guidance counselors, nurses, secretaries, bus drivers, food service workers, mechanics, and custodians.”