These priorities were approved by attendees at the RSAI Annual Meeting, Oct. 16, 2019 and by the Leadership Group Nov. 13, 2019. The Clinton Community School District is a member of Rural School Advocates of Iowa and is in agreement with these legislative priorities.
Adequate School Resources: RSAI supports adequate base funding. The increased per
pupil cost known as SSA is especially critical to rural students due to distance from
school/opportunities, economies of scale, mandates, the need for AEA support, and the ability to attract and retain staff. Rural schools depend on an investment of meaningful new resources to prepare students for a successful future. The rate of increase in SSA should be no lower than anticipated growth in state revenue (adjusted for legislated tax cuts), should keep up with other economic factors such as personal income or state gross domestic product over the long term, should maintain a balance of state and local property taxes, provide predictability, and be set timely to assure adequate notice for budget planning and staffing. The SSA rate for the 2020-21 school year should be set no lower than 3.75%, if the revenue adjustment controlling for tax cuts is lower than 3.75%.
Student Mental Health: RSAI supports increased access to and funding for mental health services for children. In addition to adequate funding for AEA services and access to other service providers, an array of services should also include telehealth services received at school. The state, Medicaid and insurance providers should not pass on administrative or billing work to schools, and schools should not be mandated to be providers of mental health services for children.
Educator Shortage and Quality Instruction: RSAI supports maximum flexibility to hire staff to provide great instruction and support to all Iowa students. RSAI supports 1) district flexibility to meet offer and teach requirements, 2) teacher or other staff shortage loan forgiveness programs and incentives to encourage staff to work in rural schools, 3) a special education generalist credential to teach special education across all grades, 4) creation of a Public Service strand in Iowa’s CTE system to prepare Iowa’s future teaching workforce, 5) continued state support of Iowa Learning Online (ILO), 6) flexibility to hire retirees without a negative IPERS impact, 7) elimination of barriers to licensure for teachers and administrators, and 8) allow associate degree for substitutes. The BOEE should accept evidence other than strict transcripts to show skill mastery for administrators from other states.
Formula and Transportation Equity: RSAI supports formula and transportation equity. The Legislature should accelerate the commitment to close the $165 gap between the state and district cost per pupil within ten years and continue transportation equity support, bringing down all districts to no more than the state average per pupil transportation cost, without requiring burdensome reporting requirements from school districts.
Opportunity Equity for Low SES: RSAI supports resources for at-risk students. Resources should be based on need, such as the percentage of students eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL), in addition to enrollment of the district. The current disparity in dropout prevention capacity, (some districts held to 2.5% and others allowed to access up to 5% of regular program district cost) is arbitrary, based on history no longer relevant to supporting student needs. All school boards should be able to realize the full 5% dropout prevention funding. The formula must further recognize the disproportionate cost of providing equal educational opportunities to low-income students. School districts should be granted spending authority for FRPL eligible students’ fees mandated to be waived by state and federal law.
Sharing Incentives and Efficiencies: RSAI supports extension of sharing and efficiency
incentives. Rural students benefit from opportunities to achieve efficiencies, share capacity to operate, and redirect resources to educational programs. Whole Grade Sharing, Reorganization, and Operational Sharing Incentives should be extended and expanded.
Quality Preschool: RSAI supports full funding of quality preschool. Due to changing
demographics in rural Iowa, significant transportation costs, and lack of quality day care
access, preschool should be fully funded at the regular student count at 1.0 per pupil cost.
School Safety: RSAI supports school safety investments. Rural schools need the resources, training and support necessary for Iowa student and staff safety at school, including additional funding for security personnel and training to protect against active shooter and other emergency situations presenting harm.
Bonding Capacity: RSAI supports a simple majority, 50% plus 1, voter approval for school.
Here are key educational senate committee leaders:
- Amy Sinclair (R, District 14), Chair
- Chris Cournoyer (R, District 49), Vice Chair
- Herman C. Quirmbach (D, District 23), Ranking Member
Here are key educational House leaders:
- Cecil Dolecheck (R, District 24), Chair
- Tedd Gassman (R, District 7), Vice Chair
- RasTafari I. Smith (D, District 62), Ranking Member
Now is the time to contact legislators as they plan before the upcoming session. We need to actively advocate for public education.