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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Transportation costs and school funding

A letter to our legislators:

Rural Iowa is on a slippery slope.  The fine folks who live and work in our small communities contribute mightily to the Iowa economic landscape through agricultural production and exports of food and fuel.  Yet, these people are losing influence and relevance in our statehouse every decade.  Our rural population continues to dwindle as young people move to urban areas or other states searching for good paying jobs.  As a result we have fewer and fewer representatives supporting us at every reapportionment.   Please consider yourselves representatives of ALL of Iowa as you consider education funding for our future.

I am very excited to see serious discussion on a form of transportation support for Iowa school districts.  As a shared superintendent, I serve two rural districts who have entered into a whole grade sharing agreement just a year ago.  We are providing education to 1200 rural PK-12 students who populate 300 square miles in 8 different communities of  NE Iowa.   In this sharing agreement we are achieving an economy of scale and improving the opportunities for our students.  But we have also increased our transportation costs by 20% and 45% in these two districts.

North Fayette now spends
$183 dollars per pupil ($152,439) more on transportation than the state average, at Valley Community that figure is up to $236 more per pupil ($92,984).  Thats 4 teachers between us, spent on the above average portion of transporting students to our schools.  The $599 per student spent on transportation at Valley Community effectively reduces our district cost per pupil funding from $6389 to $5790.  Thats 9% of our DCPP.

Of the options on the table for providing some relief to our situation, I believe a regressive local levy, forcing local taxpayers to cover the entire burden is unfair.  We are already suffering from low property tax values per student, and our ability to increase property taxes is thus limited.  For this reason HF320 is the most fair and equitable method to provide this needed support for all schools who suffer high transportation costs.  The funding in the form of supplementary weighting burdens local taxpayers for a portion of the costs but also asks the state to have some skin in this game.  The weightings in that bill would provide NF only $106,624 and Valley $75,648, providing relief, but not the full above average costs.

As I said earlier our rural residents create a lot of value and jobs across all corners of Iowa. Support for your follow Iowans in this manner would be healthy for all involved.  Thank you for reading this and I wish you well in your legislative efforts to provide for a strong Iowa of well educated and healthy Iowans.

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