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Legislators lament allowable growth rate

BY IAN MURPHY | MAY 05, 2014 5:00 AM

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The allowable growth rate has not been set for the 2015-16 school year because of disagreements in between the House and Senate.

Allowable growth is used to control and provide funding for Iowa schools, according to the Iowa State Education Association. It is determined by the state legislators and used to calculate the amount of money that can be spent per student.

More often than not, the issue of K-12 education falls on party lines, and this year was no different, said Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, at a forum of local legislators held May 3 in Iowa City.

The Democratic-controlled Senate passed the 6 percent increase twice. However, the Republican-controlled House did not pass the bill.

Instead, the House attempted to change the law on allowable growth, said Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan.

The current law says the Legislature must approve the allowable growth 30 days after the governor submits his budget. Instead, the House prevented the rate from being set in order to push it to the next legislative session, in which lawmakers will then address the budget and allowable growth in the same year.

For now, school districts will have to plan for the future without knowing the allocation rate, which creates problems for the districts, Dvorsky said.

City High Principal John Bacon said Iowa City School District officials are planning on 2 percent allowable growth for the 2015-16 school year rather than the proposed 6 percent.

Bacon said Iowa has catching up to do in education, and the increase in funding would aid school districts in doing so.

“It would be greatly appreciated across the state,” Bacon said.

For one representative, the allowable growth issue hits close to home for him and his daughter.

“It’s a little personal to me, when I go to West High School, and there is a chemistry teacher there who has gotten my daughter excited about math and science, and when you go to the parent-teacher conference, and we say looking forward to your recommendation, hopefully going to have you next year,” said Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville. “He looks you in the eye and says, ‘Dave, I don’t know if I’m going to be here next year. I’m a new teacher; we don’t know where things are going to land.’ That’s where the frustration lies.”

Dvorsky said if Democrats win both the House and Senate, they would act on allowable growth immediately.

“If we get control of the House and Senate, we’d get it passed right away,” he said. “It would probably be the first thing we do.”

Johnson said if the Republicans control both houses, the budget process will be the same. He said if Republicans win, they would consider aligning allowable growth with the rest of the budget process.


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