House and Senate Republicans have reached an agreement on school funding, which the House passed Thursday. Under SF 269 K-12 funding would increase by 2.4% for the 2021-22 school year. That’s higher than the Senate’s proposed 2.2% and slightly lower than the 2.5% favored by Governor Kim Reynolds and House Republicans. It’s also a greater proportional increase from last year. However, because a significant number of students disenrolled during the pandemic, schools will receive about $50 million less than in 2020.
During Thursday’s debate, Rep. Cecil Dolecheck (R-Mount Ayr) said the bill was part of a larger education funding package Republicans were putting together. Democrats argued that still wouldn’t be enough to prevent 137 school districts with lowered enrollment from raising property taxes. Instead, they said lawmakers should tap into the state’s budget surplus. Republicans argued it would be important to keep the surplus intact if Iowa’s economy doesn’t recover from the pandemic quickly. The amended bill passed the House on a mostly party-line vote, 56-36, with Reps. Jeff Shipley (R-Birmingham) and Charlie McClintock (R-Alburnett) joining Democrats. The Senate passed the original bill Tuesday and will need to approve the House-amended version before it can go to the governor for consideration.
The House is also considering a separate GOP bill, HF 439 which would divide $30 million in supplemental funding between school districts. The funds would be divided in proportion to the number of days each district offered 100% in-person instruction. The measure passed the subcommittee on Thursday and now goes to the full Education Committee for consideration.
Incidentally, today was the last day lawmakers were allowed to request their own bills, meaning the final tranche of individually-sponsored legislation will likely be released next week. After that, only leadership and committee chairs will be permitted to introduce new legislation this session.
Meanwhile, Governor Reynolds announced $400,000 in new grant funds for small rural communities. Cities with fewer than 20,000 people will be eligible for awards. $300,000 will go toward the Rural Innovation Grant Program, which focuses on community investment opportunities as an avenue for economic growth. The Rural Housing Assessment Grant Program will receive the remaining $100,000. These grants allow cities to analyze hard data with Iowa State University Extension & Outreach to determine which local policy changes would spur development.
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