Equity is a concept that most everyone agrees is right and just. However, in Iowa public school funding, two major areas of inequity exist: per-pupil funding and transportation.
The per-pupil funding inequity was created over 40 years ago when the state of Iowa developed a funding formula, balancing state and local revenues for education. At the time of the creation of this state funding formula, some property rich districts were already spending more per pupil than the new formula generated. These districts were grandfathered in, with some able to spend up to $175 more per student. Forty years later, nothing has been done to eliminate this inequity.
In the current 2017-18 school year, some school districts are allowed by the state to spend $6664 per student. Clinton is allowed $6710 per student, $129 below the maximum of $6839 per student in some Iowa districts. The $129 deficit per student means the Clinton School District has over $488,000 less to spend on students this year compared to other school districts.
The second major inequity is transportation. Some school districts in Iowa spend over $1000 per student in a school year to get students to school. Other districts spend less than $50 per student per year. Clinton spent an average of $223 per student in the 2016-17 school year. Transportation costs are paid out of the supplemental state aid per student as described in the above paragraph, ranging from $6664 to $6839 per student. However, currently some school districts pay $950 more per student in transportation costs which means this $950 cannot be used for teachers, textbooks, technology, etc.
Where a child lives in the state of Iowa should not dictate the funding for his or her education. Last year, the legislature proposed a bill for a 10 year phase-in to eliminate both per pupil and transportation inequity. The bill did not move forward due to funding. Although it is a tight financial year, the amount of money proposed for year 1 of the phase-in was reasonable. If educational equity is something we can agree on, let’s find a way to begin the process.
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