DES MOINES — A 2.1 percent general funding boost for Iowa’s K-12 public schools is on its way to the governor’s desk for approval.
The Iowa Senate on Wednesday approved the $3.3 billion public school state funding package, which includes funding for districts with high transportation costs and for districts’ per pupil spending levels.
The bills, previously passed by the Iowa House, head to Gov. Kim Reynolds for her approval. Reynolds, who called for similar funding levels in her budget proposal, is expected to approve the package.
“With the Iowa Legislature’s approval of historic preK-12 school funding, we can continue moving forward in preparing our young people for the challenges of a 21st century economy,” Reynolds said in a statement. “I look forward to signing this legislation shortly after it reaches my desk because it’s a critical piece for our local schools districts to have in place as they plan for the next school year. Without question, Iowans are the true winners as a result of this year’s record investment in education.”
The 2.1 percent increase in general funding is higher than the previous two budget years, which saw increases of 1.1 percent and 1 percent. But it still lags the pre-2008 recession norm of 4 percent increases.
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“Iowa prioritizes education,” said Amy Sinclair, a Republican from Allerton and the chairwoman of the Senate’s education committee. “The bill before you is a responsible and sustainable measure that will continue the great history that we have here.”
Senate Democrats proposed a 3-percent general funding boost, which was rejected by a party-line vote.
“(The 2.1 percent increase) doesn’t even make up for inflation for the last two years, and it does nothing for inflation for the next year,” said Herman Quirmbach, a senator from Ames and the top Democrat on the Senate’s education committee. “(A 3 percent increase) at least adds a little bit more.”
The general funding bill passed largely on a party-line vote with four Democrats -- Sens. Jeff Danielson of Cedar Falls, Liz Mathis of Hiawatha, Tony Bisignano of Des Moines, and Kevin Kinney of Oxford -- joining Republicans in support.
The package also includes $19 million for districts whose transportation costs comprise a larger share of their general budget than others’. That is an increase of $7.9 million over the previous budget year.
It also boosts district per-pupil spending levels by $5 per student, which translates to $2.3 million in new funding. Districts with higher per pupil costs will get state aid to replace funds that would have come from property taxes. Districts, like Davenport, with lower per pupil expenditures would receive additional spending authority.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story omitted one of the Democrats who voted for the general funding bill for K-12 schools.