Thursday, March 13, 2014

RSAI Call to Action Set Per Pupil Costs this Session for FY 2015-16

Text Box: Mar. 13, 2014

RSAI Call to Action

Set Per Pupil Costs this Session for FY 2015-16

The Issue:  The legislature should follow the law which requires setting the cost per pupil within 30 days of the release of the governor’s budget (deadline passed Feb. 13).  RSAI is calling for action this session to set the per pupil cost for FY 2015-16.
Old News:   The Senate passed bills to increase the state cost per pupil by 6% for 2015-16 (SF 2079), same rate for categorical funds (SF 2077) and a bill to make permanent the property tax replacement payments (SF 2078).  This bill died in the House Education Committee due to funnel date rules.  House leaders have indicated they do not plan take up this conversation this year. Instead the House passed HF 2194, approved 53-43 on Feb. 13. This bill would change when the state cost per pupil would be set.  On March 12, the Senate Education Committee recommended changes to this bill, with a strike-after amendment which completely rewrites the bill as a 6% increase in the cost per pupil for 2015-16.  This bill did survive the funnel date with yesterday’s  Committee approval.
Please lobby from home, send emails or call the House or Senate Switchboard on Thursday March 13, Friday March 14 and through the weekend:
TALKING POINTS:  This legislature must set the 2015-16 cost per pupil during this session.
·         Iowa ranks 37th in the nation in per pupil funding, more than $1,500 below the national average per student in expenditures.  Our schools haven’t recovered from the economic downturn and record low funding rates of the last several years.
·         Iowa’s economy is strong, state coffers are full. Although we can never be certain about the future, we are certainly well positioned to sustain any significant economic challenge in the next several years.
·         It’s the law – Iowa Code requires legislative action within 30 days of the governor’s budget.  That deadline passed over a month ago. Here’s why this current process should not be changed:
1.       History proves it’s hard to meet the 30 days in the out year, with no other competing budget issues on the table.  It won’t get easier next year with other interests competing for resources.
2.       Despite good intentions of well-meaning legislators, schools have no confidence that the 30-day deadline is attainable, any more with the proposed law change of two-year-budgeting than currently.
3.       But even if they could set the cost per pupil in 30 days, that’s not enough time for good planning.  Schools have been working on budgets, analyzing staffing needs to meet student needs, planning for Education Reform changes in staffing, and negotiating with teachers  and other staff for months now, because the per pupil rate beginning July 1, 2014 is known.  School timelines require more than 30-days-notice to be good stewards of over $4 billion in combined state and local funds. 
·         Education is the priority and worthy of action within the timelines set in current law.  If this legislature can plan ahead to meet property tax reductions over several years, it can plan ahead to adequately fund schools.

Cedar Rapids Gazette editorial on why the legislature should follow the law and set school funding for the FY 2016 fiscal year in the 2014 session.  Read it, share it, send it to your legislators and others.   The editorial explains why education funding should be set before the rest of the budget:
         “The not quite 20-year-old state law directs the Legislature to set state per-pupil funding two years in advance, and within 30 days of receiving a governor’s budget. The goals are pretty simple. Make school funding a top priority, give school districts ample time to plan ahead and make it less likely that critical school bucks will get tangled up in all the budgetary horse-trading that happens late in a session.” 
Thank the Senate for their action on 6% and ask all of your legislators and the Governor to follow the law and prioritize the funding of education.  Access the Education Coalition Funding Fact of the Week or additional background and answers to objections we’ve heard to setting the per pupil cost this year.

Subscribe for the Education Coalition funding fact of the week here: 

Parents, grandparents, staff and neighbors, you can help!
Call or email Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds and your legislators and leave a message that schools need sufficient school funding, at least 6% per pupil, determined this session.  
Office of the Governor:  State Capitol | 1007 East Grand Ave. | Des Moines, Iowa 50319, Phone: 515.281.5211 | Contact Us  (
To reach members of the  Iowa House and Senate:.
·         Find your legislator here:
·         Email your legislators. You’re welcome to use the sample provided below on page 3. The correct email address configuration is:
·         Call the House Switchboard. Leave a message for your representative at 515.281.3221
·         Call the Senate Switchboard. Leave a message for your senator at 515.281.3371
Write a letter to your local newspaper explaining the information above in this call to action or sharing details from one of the education coalition funding facts of the week. 

(please personalize as much as you’d like)

Dear [ Sen. Or Rep. _________] or
Dear Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds,
As a [tax payer, parent, grandparent] I have been following the discussions concerning education during this 2014 legislative session. I share and believe in the commitment to ensuring that every child has access to a high quality education. However, I have serious concerns about the impact of delaying education funding decisions until next year on my child's school and our community.
The idea that the legislature wait until just months before the beginning of the school year to decide on funding  jeopardizes school programs, puts schools at risk of additional lay-offs, increases class sizes, and further hampers schools’ abilities to meet the needs of all students.  Although the legislature can refuse to follow the law and set school funding within 30 days of the governor’s budget release, schools must follow the law, subject to strict state deadlines - school budgets need stability and predictability. We also know the costs of delivering education continue to grow while school budgets have remained on a starvation diet for several years and the full impact of previous underfunding is still being discovered.  Iowa now ranks 37th in the nation in per pupil expenditures.  Our students need us to do better.
The education reform agenda will take several years to be defined and implemented.  We need Iowa schools to be adequately funded in the meantime. We know the State has the capacity to do so.  As an Iowa tax payer, I am asking that this happens through funding education with an adequate per pupil growth rate of at least 6% for the 2015-16 school year.
The bottom line is that education is an investment – not only in education itself, but also in our economic and workforce development and the future success of our children and our state.
Thank you for your time and consideration as well as your commitment to Iowa’s children.

[Your Name and Contact Information]

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