Corridor educators say increase in education fund is a brief relief

    Corridor education leaders say the 2.3% increase in the education fund proposed by Governor Reynolds may not be enough to offset inflation costs.

    Governor Kim Reynolds's proposal to increase the education fund is bringing mixed reaction from education leaders.

    The proposal would make a 2.3% increase in the education fund, bringing the total fund to $93.4 million. An amount of $89.5 million will be spread across all school districts in the state.

    "I'm grateful that it is more than zero," said Stephen Murley, the superintendent of the Iowa City Community School District.

    More money for education may lead to short-term relief for many schools, but it's not a long-term solution due to inflation costs. Some education leaders say a 3% or 4% increase would help manage those costs, but without it there could be future problems.

    "You create a structural deficit--that is, you have less money to do the same things next year as you're doing this year," said Murley.

    This year, the Iowa City Community School District pays $60,000 to put each bus on the road, $700,000 to partially adopt an English-language program, and thousands more for staff members and utilities.

    "We have a 6.5 million dollar deficit as we look at next year's budget based on an assumption that we would get 1% allowable growth from the state," said Murley.

    It's not only school districts who are looking at future budgets to see what may have to change. Area education agencies across the state are also concerned about future funding.

    "Any money that we receive--any increase--goes directly to staff that supports students in buildings," said John Speer, Grant Wood Area Education Agency's chief administrator.

    The Grant Wood branch serves 32 school districts, accounting for 74,000 students in seven counties. Even with 400 of their 600 employees being inside school buildings, the agency says it's in the same boat as some district partners.

    "2.3 percent is closer to making districts and AEA's whole, but it doesn't quite cover our escalation in costs," said Speer.

    Under Iowa law, lawmakers have 30 days from when they gavel in to submit a pre-K-12 budget plan, meaning they have until the middle of February.

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