Now that the Iowa House and Senate have agreed to increase Supplemental State Aid (SSA) to K-12 by 2.25% in fiscal year 2017, the political spin has already begun. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle and my 2016 challengers have already claimed this bipartisan agreement “underfunds education.” Election year or not, I am committed to honest service to my constituents. So here are the facts.

K-12 funding makes up approximately $3 billion of Iowa’s $7.351 billion budget, or roughly 42%. It is far and away the largest chunk of Iowa’s budget. When coupled with such education spending as the regent universities and community colleges, education accounts for fully 55% of Iowa’s budget. With that much of the budget committed to one issue, educating our kids and workforce is clearly our state’s top priority.

Next year’s budget is restrained by the 99% legal expenditure limit to $7.351 billion, which will be less than our ongoing revenue.  Given that the state appropriated approximately $7.175 billion in our current year, that amount is automatically built into the base for next year.  As a result, the state has only $176 million in new revenue to spend without breaking the legal limit. Any increases in the state budget must total less than that $176 million.  Just like Iowa families, we should not spend more than we take in.

The agreement reached on K-12 funding dedicates $153.8 million to K-12. That represents 87% of our available new revenue, leaving only 13% or $22.2 million for all the rest of the state’s new priorities. Dedicating 87% of new revenue to only 42% of the budget is a conscious decision to put education first. This decision is not without consequences, however, as other elements of the budget must live with status quo or decreased budgets.

Under Republican leadership in the House, this will be the sixth year in a row schools received a funding increase. In fact, ongoing funding for education has increased in that time by $660 million. In just the last two years alone, we have voted for over $300 million in K-12 increases. Just as important, schools have been able to depend on that funding. Previous regimes made an ugly habit of passing unsustainable funding increases that led to unfunded promises and across the board cuts.

Some claim that the last 6 years have seen uncharacteristically low K-12 funding. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In the fiscal years between 2012-2017, SSA real growth, accounting for inflation, has grown 5.98%. That is an average of approximately 1% above inflation annually, which is almost double the average annual real increase of .55% over the last 44 years. This is even more significant when you consider that other state employees, military veterans, and social security recipients are receiving significantly smaller increases relative to inflation.

Perhaps this is why, according to the Iowa Department of Education, the number of full-time teachers in the state has grown by 809 in those six years despite only modest enrollment gains. In fact, the number of full-time teachers has finally recovered to the same approximate number as that which existed before the previous administration did calamitous across-the-board cuts.

In sum, the dedication of 42% of the overall budget and 87% of new revenue to K-12 shows our commitment to education.  The last 6 years have seen massive increases in education, with $606 million more in spending at almost double the historical inflation-adjusted rate. These increases have created a net hiring of 806 teachers across the state at a time of relatively level enrollment.  These facts show that any problems related to school budgets have much more to do with out-of-control costs than with insufficient state funding.

And those are the facts about education funding.

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  1. Kathryn Woerner says:

    Dear Mr. Rizer,

    I am very disappointed. You have been to my classroom and experienced the fruits of my labor. Education is hard work. Our teachers and kids really need your support. Iowa can do better than this. I am very disappointed.

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