Gov. Reynolds considers school funding bill
DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds is considering a bill that would provide a $36.5 million increase to public schools in Iowa but will result in higher property taxes in more than 100 school districts where parents kept young children home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Republicans called the funding level predictable and reliable while Democrats criticized it as too little at a time when the state has a large budget surplus and could afford more.
The final agreement between House and Senate Republicans increases base state aid by 2.4 percent, slightly less than the 2.5 percent recommended by Reynolds. The bill was sent to Reynolds on Wednesday.
“The governor is proud of the fact that, even in the midst of a pandemic while other states are raising taxes and cutting budgets, Iowa is increasing education spending.” said Reynolds’s spokesman Pat Garrett.
The funding pushed by Republicans who control the legislature will leave 137 school districts with $71 million less than the current year which means they must rely on increased local property taxes to make up the difference.
The shortfall is the result of declining school enrollments caused by parents keeping about 7,000 younger children at home during the pandemic. Since the funding formula is a per-pupil allowance and based on current enrollment, when the at-home students return in the fall state money won’t be there to cover them.
The state will spend $3.41 billion for K-12 schools if the bill is signed by Reynolds up from $3.38 billion in the current year.