Education leaders to state reps: make school budgets a priority - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Education leaders to state reps: make school budgets a priority

Education leaders came away encouraged after a panel discussion with Iowa state representatives. Education leaders came away encouraged after a panel discussion with Iowa state representatives.

We often think of schools as building our future. For years, Iowa's were among the best in the nation, but test scores have slipped. That's put school budgets under the microscope, as they try to do more with less.

Delayed revenue reports are handcuffing schools and their budgets, says Lobbyist Margaret Buckton.

"If we don't know the amount of funding, both of those things are completely up in the air and you do your best guess. If you don't get the resource, you can't pay for it, and you're in trouble," said Buckton.

On this day, she's telling state lawmakers why schools are struggling to plan ahead for things like books, supplies, and staff.

"We're a year late already. We'll be finding out what the allowable growth rate will be for next school year, which should have been set last year," said Buckton.

Allowable growth is the most significant source of funding for schools. Sioux City Superintendent, Dr. Paul Gausman says the school board sent several proposals to the state last year.

"I believe we finally approved scenario letter "I" after starting on letter "A" of the alphabet," said Gausman.

School officials say it can be tough for the teachers to focus on their jobs or plan new curriculum, when there are pink slips looming.

"Our message today was, ‘please do all you can to give us some of that stable focus right when you get into session,'" said Gausman.

Gausman says the school district's being forced to plan for expenditures based on revenue without knowing what the revenue will be.

"We have to imagine the worst possible scenario," said Gausman.

Normally, school money comes from income and sales taxes, with a small portion coming from a levy on property taxes. But some areas like Sioux City feel their loads are too big.

"We have a lot of people who want property taxes reduced here. We have a property poor district. Our rates are very high in comparison to other parts of the state," said Dawson.

State leaders hope to find a way to shift the source of school funding to income or sales tax and away from property tax.

"It would lower the property taxes of the local residents because they wouldn't have to pay property taxes to fund the education formula," said Jorgensen.

With a set plan and stability, Buckton says Iowa could get back on track, and back on top.

The Iowa state legislature gavels in on Jan. 14, and education reform is expected to be a top priority.

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