Schools await allowable growth
Sustainable growth, also known as allowable growth, hasn’t been set for the 2015-16 school year yet, which leaves school districts across Iowa wondering what they should set their budget at.
“It’s very frustrating to set a budget without knowing what you’ve got,” said Washington Community School District (WCSD) superintendent Dr. Mike Jorgensen.
Senate Study Bill 3105 proposes raising the allowable growth to 6 percent for the 2015-16 school year but Jorgensen doesn’t think that number is reasonable.
“Six percent would be nice, but I just don’t think it’s realistic,” he said. “Most school superintendents expect allowable growth to be at 4 percent.”
The bill was passed by the Iowa Senate but it hasn’t gone anywhere with the House of Representatives, Jorgensen said.
He isn’t happy a law is being ignored by some of the state legislators.
“By law they’re [legislators] supposed to have allowable growth set within 30 days after the budget is released,” Jorgensen said. “The Republicans stance is that they’re not going to set it within 30 days of the budget. What I want to know is why they aren’t following the law. There are laws passed that school districts have to follow that I don’t want to — but it’s a law, so I have to follow it.”
Allowable growth is set at 4 percent for the 2014-15 school year, which gives districts $6,000 per student, Jorgensen said. If allowable growth were increased to 6 percent schools would get around $7,200 per student, but Iowa would still be below the national average for funding students.
“Iowa is $1,500 below the national average,” Jorgensen said. “We’re ranked 37th for funding per pupil in the country, which is very disappointing.”
Jorgensen said he plans on asking Sen. Sandra Greiner, R-Dist. 45, Sen. Rich Taylor, D-Dist. 42, Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Dist. 78, and Rep. David Heaton, R-Dist. 84, why allowable growth hasn’t been set yet, at the legislative briefing this Saturday at the Washington County Courthouse.
Highland Community School superintendent Chris Armstrong said Gov. Terry Branstad is planning on budgeting state supplemental aid in two-year terms, which leaves budgeting difficult for school districts.
“What’s problematic about this is we’re in the process of negotiations for the 2014-15 school year and setting budgets,” Armstrong said. “This leaves us with setting a budget not knowing how much we’ll have from state supplemental aid.”
He would like two things to happen at the state level.
“One, they [state legislators] should change the law if they don’t plan on setting the state supplemental aid within 30 days the governor presents his budget, and two, our deadlines should be changed,” Armstrong said.
He plans on attending Saturday’s legislative briefing to discuss this issue with the representatives and senators.
“This is a very important issue that needs to be addressed,” Armstrong said.
Mid-Prairie Community School District and Keota School District superintendent Mark Schneider couldn’t be reached for comment.