By Dawn Pettengill

After the Governor’s vetoes, the first session of the 86th General Assembly is over and it was a grueling year. We worked a month over without pay and most of what we did in that month to find a bipartisan compromise, the Governor vetoed. You can imagine how the Legislature feels about that – believe me, it is not good.
On education, there was a bi-partisan agreement to give a 1.25% raise to the per pupil cost and an additional $55 million to help with problems we were told districts needed help with, like transportation costs, books and curriculum. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed the $55 million. We had a balanced budget and it was under his original budget. I have to admit, his veto explanation was not sufficient for me.
Speaking of EDUCATION FUNDING. We need to set the record straight on the misinformation that’s out there. Here it is:
THE STATE DID NOT CUT DOLLARS GOING TO EDUCATION. In the eleven years I’ve been there, the ONLY CUT to education was the 2010 Culver 10% Across the Board cut. In every other year, the schools received more ‘Per Pupil’ than they received the year before. When you ask for a 6% raise and get a 1.25% raise, only in ‘political speak to make the public mad’ is that a cut. And that is exactly what happened this year. The ask was for a 6% raise and we passed 1.25%, which amounts to an extra $80 per pupil.
The House passed the 1.25% on January 27, 2015. It was our first bill of the year. We also passed a 2% increase per pupil for the 2016/17 school year, but the Senate did not take the bill up. I am embarrassed and apologize to the schools for it taking so long to let them know how much they have to spend.
Please note, the state cost ‘per pupil’ is an important term, because that’s how we pay the schools. The tax dollar increases the state sent for every pupil in the last four school years are in the below chart.

Pettengill_EdFunding_chart

 

 

 

Because they have fewer pupils, many schools ARE receiving less money. Let’s take Vinton-Shellsburg for instance:

Pettengill_Vinton_chart

 

 

 

Vinton enrollment was estimated to be down another 63 students in FY15, bringing the number of students lost to 189 in 5 years. 189 students x $6,366 = $1.2 million less, but look at how their budget has went up in spite of the number of students going down.
Bottom LINE, the state IS sending more money. It may not be what was asked for, but it is more. And we pay PER STUDENT. If you have less students, you receive less. Unfortunately, the School Boards who have this situation will have to make some hard decisions and each school board will have different priorities based on their district’s situation. I’m sure you know at the state level, we send dollars in a lump to the school districts and they determine how to manage it.
I hope this clears up some of the confusion. If you have any questions or concerns, you can give me a call at 319-610-3412. That’s my cell phone. Or you can send a message to dawn.pettengill@legis.iowa.gov. I’m here for you!