For many urban school districts, transportation of students to and from school does not come close to the costs incurred by rural districts. Many of the area districts have voiced concerns that money from the state is having to be used to pay for transportation instead of supplies and curriculum in the classroom. Many of the districts in the area are over 100 square miles in size which attribute to the higher cost to transport schoolchildren.
Representative Ted Gassman has forwarded a bill that establishes a formula which provides an additional $20 per student to every school district whose transportation costs are $40 per student over the state average. The formula runs on a five year time period during which the amount of funds provided will compound for each school whose costs continue to raise an additional $40 per student above the previous year with a limit of $100 per student. Every 5 years, the formula will be re-evaluated to account for changes in the average transportation costs.
On the surface, it looks as if the state will fund half the costs, but according to Forest City Community Schools Superintendent Darwin Lehman, that is just not the case.
Forest City Schools looked at their dollar cost average for each student in the district and realized that out of the bill proposed by Gassman and supported by 22 other Representatives in the Iowa House, the district will see some money coming back into the education side of their budget.
According to area Senators in the Iowa Legislature, a proposed Senate bill will actually have a higher dollar amount which would come back to the area schools. If the two bills are passed, a compromise may be reached to benefit area rural schools. Regardless, Lehmann praised the efforts of Gassman and others to return money back to the educational end of the districts budget.
Comparatively speaking, the rural districts need to be compensated for transportation costs just on size alone.
The question remains that with the current budget shortfall in the state, would the measure be passed by Governor Branstad in either the Senate, House, or compromise form? That answer remains undetermined at this time.