Wednesday, May 27, 2015

School Funding Fight Continues

May 20, 2015 12:47 pm  •
DES MOINES — Education advocates pleaded unsuccessfully Wednesday with GOP legislators for increased state aid to K-12 schools, prompting an Iowa City Democrat to accuse House Republicans of “sabotaging” 2013 state teacher leadership reforms by failing to adequately fund education for the next two fiscal years.
Lobbyists representing school boards, teachers and rural and urban schools argued the scaled-back 2 percent growth in state aid offered by majority House Republicans for fiscal 2017, on top of their 1.25 percent increase for next school year, would result in larger class sizes, fewer teachers, higher property taxes and more school closures in rural Iowa.
“This does not get us to world-class education and we are disappointed,” Connie Ryan-Terrell of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund told a House Appropriations subcommittee that approved a 2 percent increase in state supplemental aid for K-12 public school districts for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016. The fiscal 2017 state aid level also was approved by the full committee on a 14-10 party-line vote Wednesday and readied for a future floor debate.
“The students’ needs are increasing at a time state resources are not,” added Margaret Buckton, who represents the Rural School Association of Iowa and the Urban Education Network. She warned that continued low per-pupil increases in state education aid will close rural schools.
It was concern over state resources that prompted the House GOP position, said Rep. Chuck Soderberg, R-LeMars, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, noting that projected state revenue growth was scaled back since a House panel earlier approved a 2.45 percent growth rate and new concerns have arisen over what impact a bird flu outbreak will have on Iowa’s economy.
“I think we need to be cautious,” said Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, a Mount Ayr Republican who noted the 2 percent increase coupled with money for education reforms would mean an extra $125 million to schools for the 2016-17 school year.
Gov. Terry Branstad has proposed a 2.45 percent boost in supplemental state aid for K-12 schools in fiscal 2017 while Democrats who control the Iowa Senate favor a 4 percent boost.
“That’s below the governor’s number, and we thought the governor’s number was inadequate,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs. “We’ll be happy to take a two-year deal on school funding, but not at the level they’re talking about.”
However, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, told reporters, “I don’t think 4 percent is realistic at all” in assessing Democrats’ position.
Dolecheck said the yearly $50 million commitment for the state’s teacher leadership and mentoring initiative equated to an extra 1.5 percent in state funding to schools for each of the next two fiscal years on top of the base increases being discussed.
However, Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, a retired school teacher, said the education reform money was intended to be considered separately from base state aid.
“Our folks are stressed,” said Brad Hudson of the Iowa State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.
He and other education advocates questioned modest state aid increases at a time when state revenues are projected to grow by 6 percent next fiscal year. Hudson noted that legislators are forging ahead with commercial property tax commitments next fiscal year that outpace state aid increases. Mascher called it “hypocritical” for House Republicans to push other tax-cut proposals that would further eat into state resources already inadequate to meet state needs.
“I’ve never seen a year where education has become such a political football,” Mascher said.
Soderberg said he, too, is frustrated that school funding has become politicized and he called it “unfortunate” that some speakers implied that GOP legislators were valuing property above kids, but he believed his caucus was taking a responsible approach to spending given the economic uncertainty and competing budget demands.
“I think the last thing we want to do is overcommit. We all know what that feels like. We lived that in the late 2000s,” Soderberg said, noting that former Gov. Chet Culver had to cut state spending by 10 percent across the board when the economy plunged into recession.
The split-control Legislature already is entrenched in a months-long dispute over funding for the coming school year. Republicans have proposed a 1.25-percent increase, while Democrats have lowered their initial proposal of 6 percent to 2.625 percent.
A compromise under consideration would boost state aid to school by 1.25 percent and add another $55 million in one-time surplus money for fiscal 2016 that would not be built into baseline per-pupil spending.

Northeast Iowans Worry School Quality Will Suffer From Darrel Branhagen-Backed Budget

Northeast Iowans Worry School Quality Will Suffer From Darrel Branhagen-Backed Budget

Just a few weeks ago U.S. News and World Report ranked Decorah High School as the 4th best in Iowa, and in the top 3% of schools nationally. However, many voters and school district administrators in Northeast Iowa worry if local children will enjoy the same quality of education after this year’s contentious school funding debate in the Iowa Legislature.
Darrel Branhagen, the freshmen State Representative from the area, has stuck with other House Republicans in their proposal to keep the funding increase to only 1.25%. Education advocates have urged at least a 4% increase to keep up with inflation and maintain the quality of Iowa schools. The low funding level has many school districts worried about how to make ends meet the next few years.
“We’ll have three or four positions that won’t be filled,” says Mike Haluska, the superintendent for the Decorah School District. While that could mean larger class sizes, the district also plans to postpone program improvements. “We were going to do a K-12 revision of our math program … We’re not going to be able to do those curriculum kinds of things we hoped to.”
Even a potential deal rumored at the Capitol to add a one-time funding increase for next year’s budget likely won’t be enough. “At the levels they’re talking about right now, even at 2.625%, that’s just not going to get it done,” Haluska says. “You’re not going to move your education program forward.”
A recent survey of school district administrators highlighted the consequences of the lower funding amount, pointing out a number of fewer opportunities children in Northeast Iowa schools will have. The Howard-Winnishiek district said it’s laying off nine staff and that class sizes will increase by six to eight students. North Winnishiek predicts they’ll have to raise property taxes to bring in an additional $80,000 to keep their budget guarantee and will also remove a basketball coach.
“We’re trying to maintain the status quo,” says Dwayne Willhite, the superintendent of the North Fayette and Valley districts. He mentions his districts are a bit unique thanks to some extra incentive money they obtained recently, but says future problems may be looming. “There’s a couple places where it would be nice to have more, but we’ve been getting by without it for several years now, so we’re kind of used to getting by with less. Next year is going to be very difficult – we’ll probably be offering early retirement settlements … We’ll probably have some spots that go unfilled.”
Also at issue is just how long it’s taking for a budget to get finalized. With House Republicans publicly refusing to budge for months, the Legislature has gone well past the date it’s supposed to produce a budget so schools can start planning.
“I think the Legislature knowingly is violating the law in not getting the budget in the hands of the school boards so they can prepare their budget,” says Lyle Otte, who lives in the Decorah area. “I think that’s just criminal. They should be obeying the law.”
“We have a whole state full of school districts who can’t plan because they’re uncertain of funding,” agrees Peter Olafsen, a retired teacher in Winnishiek County. “I have been extremely frustrated. It seems like we want to do things on the cheap. It seems like while it appears there is ample funding in what appears to be a surplus, we don’t want to fund public education adequately.”
“Frustrating” is the most common word uttered by those concerned with Northeast Iowa’s public education. Many are beginning to wonder where the actual priorities of Iowa’s elected leaders are with the education stalemate.
“The level of funding seems to be a polar opposite to statements made by the Governor when reelected that he wants to make Iowa number one again in education,” says Haluska. “When you look at what other states have done, the spending levels in Iowa simply don’t match the desire to move back into the elite in the country in terms of educational attainment.”
“It’s sad that they talk about – especially the Governor – about wanting to move us toward world-class schools, while at the same time they’re claiming the economy has gone bad in Iowa,” says Willhite. “And there is a revenue excess coming into the state budget, but they’re not recognizing that all of it’s there. Part of that is they’re back-filling the property tax cut. In my view, the legislators have placed property tax relief on a higher pedestal than education.”
Others wonder whether Darrel Branhagen is really listening to the local concerns. “He’s pretty much going with the Republican Party,” says Otte. “They can afford it.”
“I don’t think he’s been receptive,” Haluska says of the new state representative. “As is the case across the board with the Republican House, they seem to have taken the stance that it’s 1.25% and not veering from that in any way. It’s almost like it’s not a matter for debate. That really, for me, has become one of the real frustrations.” Haluska notes that it hasn’t always been this way during his 26 years as superintendent. He mentions that Chuck Gipp, the former Leader in the House from the Decorah area, was able to come to consensus with Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack on several areas.
“When the Republican Governor proposes a budget that’s $166 million higher than what the House did – I don’t think anyone would brandish Terry Branstad as a liberal,” Haluska argues. “So I’m assuming he’s putting out a relatively conservative budget, and yet it’s $166 million more than the House? You mean to tell me they can’t find the extra 70-some million dollars it would have taken to move that to 4%? I just find that awfully hard to believe, if that was a priority.”
Willhite says that Branhagen has been “very good and open and talking with us about the issues.” Still, he notes that “he talked to us about more of a business model for education… that’s not really how education falls together.”
“I really feel bad for the teachers who take the brunt of criticism,” adds Willhite. “As they talk about good education, and yet fail to fund education adequately, they’re really dipping into the number of teachers we can have. And the fewer teachers we have the more work everyone else has to do. It’s getting pretty difficult to find good teachers these days.”
As the legislative session drags on, many at the Capitol and around the state eagerly watch to see what type of deal gets done on education. A recent rumor suggests Republicans may offer $55 million more in one-time spending for the upcoming year (which would get it overall to a 2.6% increase), but stick to the 1.25% for the following year. That could set up yet another contentious debate next session.
“It’s really been frustrating,” Haluska says of the long-lasting stalemate in the education debate. “If you look at any other sector of government, if they want information on something regarding the medical profession, they turn to the doctors. If they want something from the legal profession, they turn to the attorneys. Yet when they want something from education, they immediately turn away from the educators as though they’re going to give them some sort of biased view. That seems a little bit irrational to me. People don’t go into education for themselves – they aren’t in it to get rich. They want to help kids. We all want to help kids. We just aren’t going to be able to do that. We’re not going to be able to move our programs forward with that kind of funding we’re looking at.”

by Pat Rynard
Posted 5/20/15

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Rural schools struggle to pay for transportation

Some students near Bayfield have to take a wind sled across a frozen bay to school. Children riding to class in the western Dubuque, Iowa, district are often in transit for an hour. School buses in Minnesota's largest school district, in St. Louis County, put on more than 1 million miles a year.

The logistics of getting children to school in sprawling or remote districts can be dizzying - and expensive.

Superintendents in the rural Midwest say that bringing children to school costs far more than state transportation aid and siphons money that could go to classroom instruction. With some facing declining enrollment, it's even tougher to cover the expense.

"I think we're doing things very efficiently here, but it's just a huge challenge when we touch the Canada border and we go all the way to Duluth," said St. Louis County Superintendent Steven Sallee. "The vast number of miles that we put on (buses) every year tends to be overwhelming

In Minnesota, Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, introduced a bill this month that would funnel about $3 million to the hardest-hit districts in Minnesota, including St. Louis County, Bemidji and Grand Rapids, to offset the gap in state transportation money. Rural school superintendents have called for action in testimony at the statehouse in recent years, to little effect.

The lawmaker said he originally sought more than $23 million in transportation funding for many districts but couldn't find broader support for such spending. The bill is awaiting action in the education finance committee, which will decide whether to include it in the state budget.

"Districts who are making money off the (school funding) formula bring more votes to the table than those who don't," he said. But, he added, "Let's get our foot in the door and do something."

Minnesota requires that districts provide transportation for all elementary students who live at least 1 mile away from school, and all secondary students who live at least 2 miles away. The state education formula distributes transportation aid based on the number of students, rather than the miles they travel and the number that actually use the bus system.

The rural districts' struggles are not because the state doesn't have enough money to pay. State records for the 2013 fiscal year, the most recent available, show that Minnesota gave $30 million more to its 446 school districts than they said transportation cost them.

Districts aren't required to spend all their transportation aid on buses and diesel fuel; many shift the money to other areas. Nearly 58 percent received more in state transportation aid than their actual expenses — in the case of Minneapolis Public Schools, $2.8 million more. It's $4.8 million in St. Paul.

On the other end, districts with the largest transportation funding gaps are disproportionately outstate, with Forest Lake Area Schools dipping $1 million into its general education fund to pay for students to get to class. Bemidji's deficit is the second highest, at $875,936; St. Louis County is close behind, with $673,186.

Throughout Minnesota, 189 districts have a total deficit of $23 million.

Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent James Hess, who recently testified before lawmakers on the matter, said the district is 828 square miles, with nearly 80 bus routes transporting more than 5,000 students.

"If we were in Minneapolis-St. Paul, we could hand out a bus token," Hess said. "You don't have any metro transit in Bemidji; you don't have it in Blackduck or Bagley."

Hess said the district loses about 14 teachers a year, and he can't pay to keep them because he's spending money on transportation. Teaching and textbooks are also getting short shrift, according to Hess.

Fewer schools, more miles

In Iowa, school consolidations led to fewer districts spread out over many more miles. The state's system of distributing aid to schools does not account for their varying transportation costs. All districts receive $6,366 per student for education, according to Jeff Berger, the deputy director of the Department of Education. He noted that some districts spend a half-percent of their budget on busing kids; others spend as much as 10 percent.

It doesn't help that 60 percent of Iowa's districts face declining enrollment.

"That is an inequity that is certainly there in Iowa," he said. "Complaints are constant on the issue, and we have all identified that it's a problem."

The western Dubuque district is among the hardest hit. Superintendent Jeff Corkery said the district is half the size of Rhode Island, with buses traveling about 45 routes and 4,500 miles a day. In his district of 3,200 students, transportation costs $700 per pupil - twice the state average.

He said they've had to spend an extra $1 million over the past six years because of the lack of state funding.

"How much money extra do we have to spend for transportation vs. what we could put into education - whether it be teachers, equipment, those types of things?" Corkery asked.

The problem has attracted a lot of discussion in Iowa, but legislative proposals have stalled in recent months. Some bills have included millions more in state funding for such districts; one gave districts authority to ask property taxpayers to chip in more for school transportation. The Iowa Association of School Boards has listed improving transportation funding as a legislative priority for the year.

In Wisconsin, the budget Gov. Scott Walker proposed in late January sought to address the imbalance, bumping up aid for rural districts where students travel long distances. The move was in line with a legislative task force last year that studied problems with rural school transportation.

But Jerry Fiene, executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance, noted that other cuts in general school funding will cancel out any gains.

"We have seen over the last number of years a pretty dramatic decline in student opportunities in rural schools because of the high cost of transportation," he said.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fewer schools, more miles: Iowa kids at greater risk?

Jason Clayworth and Charles Litchfield, - February 21, 2015

On a frigid Tuesday morning last month en route to her high school, 17-year-old Aaliyah Scott's Ford Excursion skidded on ice, spun backward into a ditch and flipped lengthwise, landing on its hood.
What she remembers most were the sounds of breaking glass and the screams of her sister and passenger, Vanessa, 16. Snow filled the vehicle. The sisters remained upside down in the ditch along a sparsely used rural highway for about 20 minutes until a passer-by happened upon them and called paramedics.

Breaking law has consequences, state of Iowa warns Davenport

March 10, 2015 7:45 pm  •  
The state of Iowa could take action against Davenport school district Superintendent Art Tate and school board members if they follow through on a plan to violate state law by spending more money than authorized, a state education official said Tuesday.
If the district exceeds its budget authority, “that’s going to create some problems,” said Jeff Berger, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Education. “His board is most vulnerable here. They take final action on spending or non-spending.”
Board members who agree to take illegal action could face criminal charges, and action could be taken against Tate’s professional license, Berger said.
His comments came a day after Tate told the Davenport School Board  that he will “violate state law” by using more money than the state of Iowa has authorized the district to spend. Tate, who is faced with budget cuts from a decline in state aid and student enrollment, is taking “full and sole responsibility” for the violation of state law, he said.
Tate said he is following the example of the state Legislature, which has “ignored the law this year by not providing districts with the state supplemental aid amount by Feb. 12, 2015.”
Additionally, Tate has referred to a funding process that provides $175 less per student for the Davenport district compared with other districts, including Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley, that receive the highest per-student rate in the state.
Dawn Saul, spokeswoman for the Davenport district, said calls and emails to the district on Tuesday were very supportive.
“We’re just saying we’ve got the money — give us the authority to spend it,” Marsha Tangen, chief financial officer for the district, said Tuesday.
Berger's response to Tate's declaration was measured.
“I guess my initial reaction was anybody can say anything anywhere,” Berger said. “I don’t get the impression that Art Tate historically has acted outside the law. Davenport has been a good district that way — they tend to want to comply with the law.
“I get a sense he was frustrated.”
And, he added, the Davenport school district has taken no action.
“We’ll wait to see what they actually do. He does have some spending authority,” Berger said. “He can certainly use that authority to spend down some of his cash reserve if he wants to.”
He added: “All of that is hyperbole at this point. We’re hoping calmer heads will prevail."
Berger said Tate has a point about different costs per pupil among Iowa school districts.
“My response to Art is we should be talking about how to fix this disparity," he said. "But let’s do that within channels and not outside.
“Think of the kids perceiving the message: ‘We don’t care what the law says, we’re going to do what we want.’ Is that OK modeling? Do we want our leaders and officials doing that?"
Rep. Ross Paustian, R-Walcott, said he endorses Tate's decision.
“I support Dr. Tate’s efforts to put the students and parents of Davenport first,” he said. “In the Legislature, I will continue to support efforts to give school boards and superintendents more flexibility.
“The state can’t spend money it doesn’t have, just like school districts can’t spend money they don’t have. If the district feels (it needs) to tap into reserves on a short-term basis, I don’t have a problem with that.
“However, I do not support turning around and raising property taxes to refill those reserves.”
Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, said two issues have put school districts in a difficult situation. One, she said, is the inequity going back to the early 1970s when the state took on a shared responsibility for funding schools.
“Until that point, property tax was the only funding for schools,” Winckler said. “Then the state decided it would be shared and came up with the state cost per pupil.”
At that time, there was a stronger sense of local control, and some school districts levied more than the set cost per pupil. Those districts were allowed to keep that differential, Winckler said. Pleasant Valley and Bettendorf benefited from that.
“But North Scott and Davenport were not levying that before, so therefore, they cannot levy more than the state cost per pupil,” Winckler said.
To add to that, “For five years, we have not set supplemental state aid in the time frame we are supposed to,” Winckler said. “That creates such uncertainty for the school districts.”
“What’s interesting is for us not following the law to set supplemental state aid, is that there is no consequence, no personal consequence," she added. "But for Dr. Tate, if in fact our Department of Education would choose to act … he could lose his license.
Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, serves on a committee that is considering Senate Study Bill 1254, which would allow school districts that aren’t receiving the highest cost per pupil to use reserves to make up the difference. The bill, he said, didn’t make it out of the Senate.
“It’s not dead, but it’s on life support,” Dvorsky said.
Margaret Buckton, a lobbyist for the Rural School Advocates of Iowa and the Urban Education Network of Iowa, said language from the bill still could go into an appropriations bill.
Meanwhile, the Davenport district has not yet done anything wrong, she said.
“And the Legislature could actually do something that gives them the spending authority that they want,” she said.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ag economy influences communities

February 26, 2015 8:00 am  • By Jeff DeYoung, Iowa Farmer Today
COLLEGE SPRINGS — Rural school districts have had to learn to share to survive.
Gregg Cruickshank serves as superintendent for the South Page and Sidney school districts in Southwest Iowa.
“Half of the Corner Conference (consisting of small schools in Page, Fremont, Mills and Montgomery counties) that was there when I started in 2004 doesn’t exist anymore,” he says. “We’ve lost 1,300 kids in the conference due to declining enrollment.
“Since state funding is tied to the number of K-12 students, it’s been a challenge for all of us.”
The loss of enrollment and funding has forced rural schools like South Page to be more creative.
Cruickshank says the district has sharing agreements with nine other school districts, including one in Missouri.
Those agreements range from personnel to class offerings.
“What can small schools do to survive and thrive?” he says. “You have to do a lot of sharing.”
Cruickshank says South Page is typical of many rural school districts. Formed in 1960 as a consolidated district with students from College Springs, Braddyville, Coin, Blanchard and Shambaugh, it boasted 640 students 55 years ago.
Today, that number has fallen to a K-12 enrollment of 125 students.
COMMUNICATION among the schools in the Corner Conference has allowed those districts to continue offering a quality education to students.
“As superintendents and principals, we communicate often and have adopted a common calendar,” Cruickshank says.
“There is definitely a spirit of cooperation among the districts. We want to move teachers around as much as possible, and move students around as little as possible.”
Falling enrollment is common around Iowa, says Jeff Berger, deputy director with the Iowa Department of Education. He says 60 percent of Iowa school districts are seeing a decline in students.
“There is a certain amount of struggling,” Berger says.
“State funding is mostly based on certified enrollment, and when you factor in things like open enrollment and parents sending kids to school where they work, some districts are struggling.”
He says districts must continue to meet the state’s minimum requirements for accreditation. Most look at sharing agreements that allow them to keep their accreditation without hiring additional teachers.
“Eighty percent of a school’s budget is usually tied to its staff, so some may eliminate staff when funding shrinks,” Berger says.
“That sometimes starts a trickle-down effect, and then a school can get into trouble for not meeting the requirements.”
Many small districts enter into staff or activity sharing agreements with neighboring districts, he says.
Some could involve whole grade sharing. The most common arrangement is for two districts or more to share a high school, but maintain their elementary schools and school boards.
THE REAL trouble, he says, comes when a school goes into the red financially.
“There are 13 districts in the state with a negative balance this year,” Berger says. “When that happens, we get involved and ask them to come up with a working plan to get back into the black.
“Those districts are faced with some real challenges, and most have to make severe cuts to get back on good financial footing.”
In the 1950s, Iowa had more than 4,800 school districts. That number is down to 338 today, says Margaret Buckton, a professional advocate for the Rural School Advocates of Iowa (RSAI), an organization formed less than two years ago.
“They are all struggling to stretch the dollar and meet the minimum requirements from the state, along with what their communities expect students to be exposed to when it comes to education,” she says.
State funding has been cut in recent years due to declining enrollment in rural schools. That has forced those schools, Buckton says, to become creative.
“They are sharing with schools, community colleges and even cities and counties when it comes to things like mowing or clearing snow,” she says. “They are always looking for someone to share with to help their district survive.”
Buckton says small districts all share a sense of community, and residents within those districts are generally willing to do all they can to keep their schools.
“We probably have 220 to 230 districts that I would consider rural,” she says.
“The people there like the fact that the students can be more involved and participate in a lot of things.
“They don’t want those kids to go to a bigger school and perhaps get lost in the shuffle.”
BUCKTON SAYS the RFAI is working to raise awareness in the legislature of the plight of many rural schools.
“It used to be that you associated poverty with urban schools, but today, a lot of kids in Southern Iowa are getting free and reduced lunches,” she says.
“We have more students who do not speak English. Things have changed, and we have to be consistent in how we deal with our schools.”
Cruickshank says having the support of the community allows South Page to continue to survive and thrive.
“We have 23 sharing agreements, and our board and the people in the district accept the fact that it’s no longer about Rebel pride, it’s about what we have to do to educate our kids with the resources we have,” he says.
“We accept the fact that we no longer have several programs we once had. We focus on our kids and making sure they get the best possible education.”

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Iowa Senate Democrats back preschool expansion, but outlook doubtful

Des Moines Register - February 2, 2015
William Petroski,

A proposal to increase participation in Iowa's preschool programs for four-year-olds advanced in a state Senate subcommittee Monday, although its chances of winning final approval from the Iowa Legislature appears doubtful.
Senate Study Bill 1101 would authorize additional state aid to help finance an expansion of preschool programs. Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, chairman of the Iowa Senate Education Committee, said about 26,000 of 40,000 Iowa four-year-olds now attend some type of a preschool program. He would like to add about 6,000 children at an estimated cost of about $7.2 million.
A similar bill passed the Democratic-led Senate last session, but was not considered in the House, where Republicans hold a majority. Both chambers have the same leadership this session, and the same result appears likely. However, Quirmbach told reporters Monday he remains optimistic because of growing evidence of the long-term benefits of preschool education.
"Every kid benefits," Quirmbach said, adding that preschool is especially important for children from low-income backgrounds and for racial minorities. These children are less likely to read proficiently at grade level than other children. But research shows they are helped by preschool at least as much as the majority population, he said.

He said the Senate bill would also provide some money for transportation and administrative expenses, including toilet paper.
"You can just imagine a roomful of four year olds and not enough toilet paper and what could go wrong," Quirmbach said.
Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday that Iowa already provides more funding for preschools than other states. If preschool is expanded, he said he would like to target the money for families that have critical financial needs. Both Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds also said there are many Iowa communities doing great things with public-private partnerships for preschool programs.
Several education lobbyists spoke in support of the Senate study bill at Monday's subcommittee meeting. They included representatives of the Iowa State Education Association and the School Administrators of Iowa.
"You could run this bill through the economic development committee" because of the clear-cut return on investment from preschool programs, said Margaret Buckton, lobbyist for Rural School Advocates of Iowa and the Urban Education Network of Iowa.
Children who attend preschool are less likely to drop out of school or be in special education programs, and are less likely to be a teen parent, be arrested for a violent crime, or to never attend college, Buckton said.