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Senator Merlin Bartz: Legislature should look at transportation formula for rural school districts

Senator Merlin Bartz

From Senator Merlin Bartz –

With Labor Day over and the first day of fall fast-approaching, North Iowans have opportunities to converse on issues we probably haven’t talked about for a while.  With cooler temperatures this week and a few combines crawling across fields, words like “football,” “fall musical,”  “empty nest,” and “putting the boat away” come to mind.  One of the great things about living in Iowa is our four distinct seasons.  As a farmer and state legislator, I always look forward to those special fall opportunities to eat at a local church soup supper, share field data with other farmers at the local coffee shop, and visit about the latest school activities and issues.

The New Hampton Community School Superintendent’s meeting the evening of September 6th was such an opportunity to get engaged in a conversation about where education needs to be headed in the state.  Hats should go off to New Hampton’s new Superintendent, Jay Jurrens, for organizing this meeting as a way to collect ideas, feedback, and constructive criticism about how our children are doing in school, how we can educate in an ever more complex and connected world, and for what jobs and career opportunities we should be educating our students.

I counted over 50 people in attendance, which I considered great.  It’s good to know that in Iowa’s rural schools, people care.

Although the subject matter varied, ranging from facilities updates and technology enhancement, to the issue that I’ve heard the most about lately when door knocking: the school lunch menu -the meeting ran smoothly and was very informative.  New Hampton, in many respects, has the same major problem most of Iowa’s rural schools face: declining enrollment and how to deal with the state per pupil cap of about $6000.00.  I’ve suggested that particularly in rural districts, we in the Iowa Legislature should look specifically at a transportation formula, above and beyond the allowable growth formula. Why?  Because rural districts are at an inherent disadvantage when it comes to getting the kids to school, and those are big budget items for districts like Riceville and Howard Winneshiek, West Fork and Northwood Kensett, as well as others.

If this issue was addressed, I personally believe it would relieve some of the financial pressure that rural school districts are experiencing due to declining enrollment.  If we addressed the issue sooner than later, we could spend more time at the local church soup supper talking about the good things our schools are doing for our children and communities.

Until next time……

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