SAI Legislative Priorities for 2020 Session
December 18, 2019
Supplemental State Aid
SAI appreciates that supplemental state aid was set early in the 2019 session. Nevertheless, due to low levels of funding growth, averaging less than 1.8 percent per year over the past nine years, school districts in Iowa remain under tremendous financial pressures. Districts are facing a critical labor shortage, which is increasing the cost of doing business and exacerbating district financial stress. The challenge of recruiting and retaining top talent in the field of education can be directly attributed to this lack of funding. We support an increase in SSA of at least 3.75 percent for the 2020-21 school year (FY21).
The increase should not be calculated by including categorical funding. Categorical funding should be increased at the same rate as supplemental state aid.
School Transportation Equity/Per-Pupil Equity
We support legislation that addresses the inequities of transportation costs for school districts with higher than the state average per-pupil transportation costs. The transportation equity provided must be revenue neutral for districts at or below the state average transportation costs per pupil. Any additional revenue provided by the state shall be considered categorical for the school districts receiving additional funding, and it shall not be included as part of the calculation for increases in SSA. We do have questions as to the standardization of transportation costs among districts and would urge a study so that costs attributed to transportation are consistent across districts.
We also support equalizing the per-pupil funding school districts receive, so that all districts receive the same dollar-per-pupil amount. Any changes should NOT include a reduction in per-pupil allocations to districts.
Teacher Recruitment & Retention
Teacher shortages across the state have become critical. It’s time for the Legislature and governor’s office to take leadership in addressing this rapidly developing crisis for our students and schools. Teacher recruitment to our university and college prep programs, incentives for teachers entering critical shortage areas, along with emergency exceptions for IPERS rules for retirees in shortage areas should all be considered. We encourage an actuarial study of a proposal to allow teachers to retire under IPERS, return to work and continue to pay into IPERS, but NOT accrue any additional IPERS benefit under this employment, and NOT be subject to the $30,000 limitation on earnings after retirement. We believe this could be used as a tool to assist in addressing the teacher shortages districts are facing across Iowa. Additionally, removal of the four-month “sit out” required before retiring teachers can return as substitutes would greatly assist districts in filling those vacancies. As a state, we must encourage and incentivize individuals to both enter and remain in the teaching profession.
The state has taken an important first step in addressing the critical mental health needs of students during the 2019 session, and we appreciate the Children’s Mental Health School-Based Training and Support. Simply stated, this work does not go far enough to address the growing mental health needs of children. We support state policy that identifies options and provides resources for school districts to address the complex issues of student suicide and other serious mental health-related issues for students. We can’t be proud of simply testing and identifying students with mental health needs—more efforts established around student supports once they are identified are needed. Funding to provide accessibility and coordination of services among counties is just one example.
Iowa Code Chapter 279 currently states that administrators are subject to a three-year probationary period whenever they move to a position in a new district, regardless of experience or previous success. We support the removal of the requirement that all administrators new to their position automatically have to serve a three-year probation period. We believe each local board should have the authority to determine a probation period that works for its respective district.
We are opposed to all forms of voucher programs/additional public funds appropriated to private school uses.