One common issue I hear discussed in the district related to education and education funding is the challenge of school funding for rural schools. Rural schools cover a much larger geographic area than urban or suburban districts. Western Dubuque school district is the largest at 555 square miles. Compare that to the smallest school district, West Burlington Independent, at 2 sq. miles. In Senate District 9, our schools range from Elk Horn–Kimballton at 82 sq miles all the way up to Maple Valley/Anthon Oto at 375 sq miles. This is huge even before the merger with Charter Oak-Ute adds 152 square miles to the total.
Consequently, those districts have much higher costs per pupil to transport those students between school and home. All those dollars spent on transportation are then unavailable to spend in the classroom, creating more disparity in resources between rural schools and urban schools.
Senate Republicans have offered several proposals to address this inequity in recent years but have not been able to see this policy advance through the legislative process. This year the Senate passed SF 455, which will start to bring equity to the funding levels between small and large geographic districts. Funds approved may only be spent on transportation costs.
We have long believed student educational opportunities should not be determined by a student’s zip code. This bill is important to many rural districts across the state as they seek to provide the best education to their students regardless of where they live in Iowa.
The bill provides for district cost per pupil and transportation cost per pupil equity among school districts, and is now sent to the House for consideration.