Feb. 17, 2014

Education Funding

Fact of the Week:

Across the Board History and Rationale for A Timely School Funding Decision

Across the Board (ATB) Cut History: This chart from the nonpartisan legislative staff Legislative Services Agency (LSA) Fiscal Topics, shows the history of Executive Orders issued by Iowa governors to enact across-the-board reductions to state appropriations in the middle of the fiscal year. ATB reductions are the only option available to the governor and may be reversed by legislative action to increase revenue or alter the reductions based on priorities. Between 1981 and today, there have been ATB orders in eight of the 43 years. 
It is critical to remember that during an ATB reduction, the state withholds state foundation aid from schools. School districts keep spending authority at the per pupil district cost set by a prior legislature. This allows schools to provide educational services without disruption and honor contracts with local cash reserves. This also maintains the base of education funding so the first priority when the economy recovers is school funding. 

The timing of the two reductions in FY 1992 directly relates to changed policy in school funding decisions. Governor Branstad and the Iowa legislature removed an automatic determination of allowable growth based on economic indicators and replaced that “autopilot calculation” with Iowa law still in place: Iowa Code Section 257.8 requires the decision on per pupil funding be enacted by the legislature and governor within 30 days of the release of the governor’s budget in the year prior to the budget year.  

Rationale for Deciding School Funding First: A recent Gazette editorial, Lawmakers should follow laws, Feb. 6, 2014, explains the historical practice and rationale for deciding school aid first: 

“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.

These are the state bucks that determine the size of local school budgets, what programs they can offer, how much staff they can afford, and so on.”

The legislature should follow the law, set the cost per pupil during this legislative session for the 2015-16 school year, and allow school districts to meet planning, budgeting and bargaining deadlines, as well as fully engage in school reform efforts. Any delay in setting the rate will stymie the very school improvement the bi-partisan legislature and governor created last year. Setting the per pupil cost this session for the 2015-16 school year maintains the bi-partisan priority status of educating Iowa children.

Sources:  LSA Fiscal Topics, Across the Board Reductions October 2009 
The Gazette, Lawmakers should follow the law, Feb. 6, 2014

Brought to you by the joint efforts of Iowa Association of School Boards, School Administrators of Iowa, Iowa Area Education Agencies, Iowa State Education Association, and the Urban Education Network of Iowa in support of adequate and timely school funding. 

Copyright © 2014