I have been your State Representative for 6 years now and believe I have the answer to some of the thoughts brought forward.
Annual funding for Iowa schools will reach an all-time record of $3.2 billion this budget year. That is an increase of $765 million since 2011, or about 30 percent. Over this same time, the Midwest Consumer Price Index (inflation) has increased less than 12 percent.
Independent reports show that Iowa is increasing K-12 funding at a quicker pace than nearly every other state (4th best in the country). K-12 funding accounts for between 43-45 percent of the state budget each year. Since 1993 K-12 education has seen an increase in there share of the state budget from 37.5 to 41 percent in 2010 to 44 percent for FY19. Perhaps most importantly, we have been able to protect K-12 from any budget reductions, even in very lean years where other programs were being cut.
If you haven’t heard, farm income hasn’t been the best over the last four years, and when farm income is down so is state income. We have spent all available resources over the last four years in a way that is fair to all parts of the budgets that we deal with.
But K-12 education shouldn’t just be about how much more money we are going to give them.
There are a number of things we have done at the state level to support our K-12 schools and provide them with more flexibility and local control. School finance is a complicated topic. Schools have several funds that are restricted to certain purposes. We have spent a great deal of time loosening the strings on many of these funds and have allowed those resources to flow to where the schools need them.
We provided an additional $11.4 million to rural school districts to pay for higher than average transportation costs. We provided extra money for a K-3 reading program. The teacher leadership and compensation program is financed to the tune of $150 million a year. Schools had an option to join this program and every school has been included.
Teachers in our K-12 system have one of the best pension programs in the nation and teacher pay is 8th best in the nation when adjusted for cost of living. During my first term, I voted to increase beginning teacher pay to prevent “burnout”.
I taught for ten years in our public schools and have a number of relatives that work in our public schools. Strong schools are a priority for many Iowans, myself included.
As your State Representative, I will continue to work with school boards, administrators, teachers, and parents to ensure that Iowa kids receive the world-class education that we have all come to expect. I want to make sure that we are preparing our students for college, a career, and real-life following graduation. Great schools lead to a great life.