Math on Educational Funding

I want to do some math. Our governor is trying to put a positive spin on the fact that he vetoed $55.7M in additional funds to Iowa schools. The rhetoric looks like this tweet:

State Foundation Aid, or the money specifically earmarked from your property taxes for your school district, comes in at $2,950,300,000.

Our legislature finally passed a supplemental growth rate of 1.25% on June 5, 113 days later than required by law. Our governor finally signed this legislation today, on July 2, another 27 days later.

Here is the thing: Not only did the governor veto the $55.7M passed by the legislature as a one-time spend from our state's more than $450M surplus. The legislators hid $50M of Teacher Leadership funding within the School Foundation Aid budget.

Brief History: In 2013, Iowa passed legislation establishing the Teacher Leadership and Compensation System with the goals of:

  • Attract able and promising new teachers by offering competitive starting salaries and offering short-term and long-term professional development and leadership opportunities.

  • Retain effective teachers by providing enhanced career opportunities.

  • Promote collaboration by developing and supporting opportunities for teachers in schools and school districts statewide to learn from each other.

  • Reward professional growth and effective teaching by providing pathways for career opportunities that come with increased leadership responsibilities and involve increased compensation.

  • Improve student achievement by strengthening instruction.

The state contributed $50M to schools for the 2014-2015 school year (FY2015, seen in the governor's tweet above in School Foundation Aid) to 1/3 of the districts across the state. They will contribute an additional $50M for the 2015-2016 school year (FY2016, seen in the tweet above in Student Achievement/Teacher Quality) to another 1/3 of the districts across the state. In the 2016-2017 school year (FY2017), they will contribute an additional $50M to the remaining 1/3 of districts, coming to a grand total of $150M for the 2016-2017 school year and each year after.

School Foundation Aid is meant to be the primary means of funding our schools. Every district is required to levy a property tax of $5.40 per $1,000 of assessed land value. This money creates the foundation, and is distributed on a per pupil basis up to 87.5% of the state's determined cost per pupil. The remaining 12.5% comes from other property taxes and revenues determined at the district level.

Now for the Math By hiding the $50M of FY2015 TLS money in the School Foundation Aid, the state is diverting funds intended for all schools to a small subset of districts and still counting it as growth for all students. Here are the numbers:

From the Department of Management's 2016-2017 Budget Report on the Department of Education, we see that the estimate for the FY 2015 budget for School Foundation Aid is $2,865,513,850.

From the governor's tweet above, we see that for FY 2016 budget for School Foundation Aid is $2,950,300,00.

This is a difference of $84,786,150 or roughly 1.25%. However, $50,000,000 of this amount is only going to 1/3 of the school districts! Specifically:

Benton, Bettendorf, Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Colo-NESCO, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Delwood, Dubuque, Earlham, East Marshall, East Union, Gilbert, Greene County, Hudson, Humboldt, Johnston, Le Mars, Linn-Mar, Marshalltown, Mount Pleasant, Muscatine, North Polk, Norwalk, Oelwein, Ottumwa, Panorama, Pella, Rock Valley, Roland-Story, Saydel, Sioux City, Southeast Polk, Twin Rivers, Van Meter, Waterloo, West Des Moines, Western Dubuque, Winterset.

This money was not intended to be used this way! So what are Iowa schools really getting? $34,786,150 more than last year, or a 1.2% increase.

If we want our schools to be world class, we need to back them with adequate funding. We can't continue to set rates of growth below that of inflation. We can't continue to promise money for school improvement, and then bury it in programs that take funds away from all students. We can't overlook the lack of leadership our legislators and governor have shown through this entire process.

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Burton Hable

Burton Hable is an instrumental music educator from Central Iowa. In 2013 he helped open Centennial High School in Ankeny, the first time in forty years that a school district in Iowa expanded to two high schools. He served there through 2018 as Assistant Director of Bands: conducting the 10th Grade Symphonic Band, directing the varsity Jazz Collective, co-directing the Centennial Marching and Pep Bands, teaching music theory, and providing individual and small group lessons to brass students in grades 6-12 at Prairie Ridge Middle School, Northview Middle School, and Centennial High School. During his tenure in Ankeny, enrollment in band grew from 450 to nearly 700, the jazz program expanded from four to seven ensembles, and ensembles under his direction were invited to perform at Iowa State University, Harper College, and the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.