Despite opposition from parents, teachers, and school leaders, the majority party in the Iowa House approved a bill to provide zero growth to Iowa schools in the next two years.|(Press release from Rep. Sharon Steckman)
Despite opposition from parents, teachers, and school leaders, the majority party in the Iowa House approved a bill to provide zero growth to Iowa schools in the next two years. House Files 184 and 185 set the allowable growth rate and the categorical allowable growth rate at 0% for fiscal years 12 and 13.
Since the school aid formula was created in 1973, there has never been a 0% allowable growth rate for schools. Even through the farm crisis that had the highest unemployment rates in Iowa history, Iowa has never provided zero growth to Iowa schools.
The allowable growth formula sets the amount of state and property tax dollars that fund school districts. The growth rate, which is set by the Legislature every year, provides a cost of living adjustment to schools.
The bills passed after turning back an alternative plan offered by Democrats to provide 2% growth next year. School administrators told legislators that 2% was adequate to cover increasing transportation, heating, and salary costs. The 2% plan would provide an additional $65 million in state dollars to local schools while reducing reliance on local property taxes. The Senate is also considering 2%.
Kids vs. Corporations
A zero growth rate was adopted at a time when Iowa’s economy is gaining strength and has emerged from a recession with over a $900 million surplus. The most recent fiscal estimate showed state revenue was up 20% last month. Supporters of 2 percent allowable growth also cited other plans to provide $200 million in tax breaks to the biggest corporations in Iowa as evidence the state can afford to provide 2% next year.
Another bill approved this week, House File 189, would provide additional one-time funding of $48 million to certain school districts with declining enrollment.