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Published in Print: May 26, 2004, as Capitol Recap

Capitol Recap

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The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2003 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.

Iowa

Increase in Per-Pupil Aid
May Bypass Some Schools

Gov. Tom Vilsack

Democrat
Senate:
21 Democrats
29 Republicans
House:
44 Democrats
56 Republicans
Enrollment:
485,000 (K-12)

While Iowa lawmakers raised per-pupil funding for schools, widespread declines in enrollment mean that most of the Hawkeye State’s school districts will receive few of those new dollars.

The 2 percent funding boost increases the total K-12 budget for fiscal 2005 to $2.34 billion. Schools will see per- student allotments increase from $4,648 to $4,741.

Margaret Buckton, the government-relations director for the Iowa Association of School Boards, said 75 percent, or 245, of the state’s 370 districts are projecting drops in enrollment for the fall of 2004. As a result, she said, the districts could see no new money overall, or could experience a loss in aid.

Ms. Buckton said shifting student populations within the state and a declining birthrate have contributed to the enrollment declines.

Meanwhile, the legislature was able to maintain a $29.3 million allocation for class-size reduction. But while $45.3 million was earmarked for the state’s teacher-quality effort, funding fell $2 million short of paying the state-mandated minimum salaries for beginning teachers. In addition, although Gov. Tom Vilsack asked for $10 million to fund professional-development, no money was set aside for that piece of the plan.

Roughly $12 million in cuts made last year to area education agencies—the main providers of teacher training—was not added back in the fiscal 2005 budget.

Once again, no state money was allocated for technology in elementary and secondary schools. The $30 million annual technology allocation was eliminated in fiscal 2003 and has not been restored.

Still, legislators did commit $500,000 for grants to four districts to work on efforts to close academic-achievement gaps between different student groups.

Gov. Vilsack vetoed a bill that would have given tax credits to people who donated money to private school scholarship or tuition-assistance programs.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Vol. 23, Issue 38, Page 18

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