Though Ames Community School District Superintendent Dr. Tim Taylor said he fully acknowledges that any increase in state funding for education is better than none, he feels that the Iowa House GOP’s proposal to increase state aid for K-12 public schools by 1 percent is no cause for celebration.
“It’s kind of a great negotiation strategy if you sit and tell somebody you’re going get nothing and you’re going to like it, and then you later on comeback and say that you’ll give 1 percent,” Taylor said. “Then everyone’s going to cheer and think that’s a great deal.”
The package of legislation — House File 2230 — sets Supplemental State Aid (SSA) at 1 percent for Fiscal Year 2018/2019, with a total increase of just under $32 million. Taylor said that even after Gov. Kim Reynolds promised to provide 1.5 percent funding growth that would have cost $54 million, he assumed that schools would probably still get 0 percent growth. Even with 1 percent, Taylor said that the budget still falls well below what is needed.
“It’s about three percentage points lower than what we really need just to try and keep our heads above water most of the time,” Taylor said. “Bottom line, 1 percent is better than zero, but it isn’t helping us with trying to add programs or increasing staff.”
With an expected enrollment increase of 112 students comes increased cost for staff and more resources, Taylor said. But he also said that the increased enrollment will also help the district increase the state aid they receive as well.
“We have to work our way through this and see,” Taylor said. “Our increase in enrollment is at least going to help us to cover our increases next year for salary and benefit increase for staff. Beyond that, probably not much else.”
According to Roland-Story School District Superintendent Matt Patton, the 1 percent growth does not match the rate of inflation for costs on everything from salary increases to heat and electricity.
“It’s certainly not enough to keep pace with the ever-increasing costs of doing business,” Patton said. “All those things will go up, at a much faster rate than the 1 percent that’s being provided.”
Much like Taylor, Patton said he did not have much hope of receiving more than 1 percent, and agrees that the proposed amount is better than nothing. Patton said that Roland-Story cut $200,000 out of its general fund budget last year, by combining some positions and reducing others.
According to Patton, the district will look at offering teachers early retirement in the hopes of bringing in younger teachers, though he said that often comes with a loss of classroom experience. As far as covering any additional costs, Patton said the district will look to rely more on its Parent Teacher Organization, education foundation, and booster clubs to provide anything that can’t be funded through the general budget.
Patton said that the district is prepared to cut costs where it can, and though he said he was not expecting much, he could not state enough how unsatisfied he has been with the recent treatment of state-funded education.
“I’m clearly disappointed that they don’t support schools at a higher level,” Patton said. “We’ll continue to find places to try and save money, and ‘tighten our belt’ as the saying goes.”