STILL WAITING: Districts Hope For Funding Increase

Senate Democrats approved a four-percent increase in funding for schools last week.

That means an increase of about $240 dollars per student.

However, that “allowable growth” bill will likely stall in the Republican controlled house.

As school districts wait for legislators to agree, the April 15th budget deadline is looming.

Des Moines Superintendent Tom Ahart says the district could do a lot with four percent more money, per student next year.

“The allowable growth puts us in a place where we can restore some programs we’ve had to reduce in the last two or three years,” said Tom Ahart, Interim Superintendent for Des Moines Public Schools.

One thing he can’t do is count on it.

Ahart is planning for a range of possibilities from a four-percent increase to no additional money at all.

“We have to move forward with some plan. Zero percent allowable growth allows us to figure out what we have been doing and what we need to do to maintain that,” Ahart told Channel 13 News.

Some districts don’t have a choice.

They will consider lay-offs while they wait to learn how much money they will have to work with.

“When you look at reducing your budget, you look very closely at reducing staff,” said Daniel Smith, the Executive Director of the School Administrators of Iowa.

Smith says almost two-thirds of districts in the state have decreasing or flat enrollment.

“The formula for determining funding is based on how many students a district has,” said Smith.

In smaller districts, additional funding is the only way they’ll get to keep staff and programs.

On the flip-side, Des Moines has added about 1,000 students in the past two years.

Ahart says, however, that costs like fuel prices will go up and class sizes will have to get bigger if they want to avoid cuts.

“If you don’t get new money, you can’t offer the same services you did prior,” said Ahart.