OPINION

IASB group makes recommendations to Iowa Legislators

Staff Writer
Story City Herald
IASB group makes recommendations to Iowa Legislators

The Iowa School Foundation Formula Committee presented recommendations to legislators on Monday, Dec. 15, to update Iowa’s current school funding formula, with the aim to create more equal access to educational opportunities for Iowa students.

The Iowa General Assembly created the current school funding formula more than 40 years ago in an effort to provide all students equitable access to educational opportunities. While this formula created a strong foundation for success, the addition of funding for targeted programs, consolidation and reorganization of districts, and a failure to maintain timely and adequate funding have combined to create serious inequities. The committee’s recommendations advocate for significantly increasing funding to address the serious inadequacy and equity issues faced by Iowa school districts and ensuring that, on a per pupil basis, no district loses resources but all districts gain needed additional resources.

The committee makes four major recommendations to the legislature:

1. Make a long term financial commitment to bring Iowa’s educational funding per student up to and surpassing the national average.

Currently, Iowa ranks 22nd nationally in per capita personal income, while simultaneously ranking 35th in educational funding per student, according to the National Education Association. This means $1,612 less than the national average is being spent per student in Iowa. When adjusted for inflation, this means Iowa’s spending per student has decreased 11.7% in the past six years.

2. Create a separate formula that equitably finances the difference in transportation needs and costs of a district.

Transportation costs have a significant impact on district spending and the depth of that impact varies greatly across the state based on student density and distance factors. These funds compete with the educational program, creating serious inequities across districts.

3. Create a new school finance formula that is simplified and allows for local flexibility.

The new formula should be simplified, combine separate funding streams and give local districts the maximum flexibility to spend their resources.

4. Provide substantial, dedicated and long term additional resources for students of low socioeconomic status.

The number of Iowa children living in poverty exceeds 40%. Research shows that these students require additional resources to be “school ready,” to regularly attend school, and to reduce the risk of dropping out.

In addition, the committee recommends the following steps to improve student equity across districts:

* Define the needs of “necessarily small school districts”

* Develop a new funding mechanism for locally-controlled, innovative education programming

* Establish an independent “School Finance Policy Institute” to study and make recommendations on the school finance formula

Both the “Recommendation to Update the School Finance Formula” and the “School Foundation Formula Task Force Report” can be downloaded from www.ia-sb.org/finance.aspx.

The School Foundation Formula Task Force was created in 2012 to identify elements of Iowa’s school funding formula that could be simplified and made more transparent. The group was also asked to provide a comprehensive analysis of the different options available to address the current funding disparities. The report issued last week is the culmination of the group’s research. The School Foundation Formula Committee is a smaller group made up of members of the task force. Both groups are comprised of representatives from the Iowa Area Education Agencies, the Iowa Association of School Business Officials, the Iowa Association of School Boards, the Iowa State Education Association, the School Administrators of Iowa, and the Urban Education Network.

Funding Recommendations Report available for download at: http://www.link-line.com/justinstory.asp?StyID=17972

IASB is a private, nonprofit organization representing Iowa’s 338 school districts, 9 area education agencies and 15 community colleges.