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Your tax dollars and education funding

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 11:27 a.m. CDT

As children head back to school and parents take college students back to campus, it is the time when communities refocus on the effort to provide a quality education to all Iowa students.

As your state legislator, I want to highlight some of the work going on here in our area and around the state to make Iowa the number one state for education once again.

Throughout the past four years, Iowa taxpayers have made significant investment in our public schools.

During this time, the state has given schools an additional $500 million through Iowa’s school aid formula. This commitment of state dollars has helped our schools address growing costs without having to ask for more from property taxpayers.

In addition, we have extended school sharing incentives to allow smaller schools to work together and continue providing quality educational opportunities in their local towns, while still maintaining their local identities. These are critical for strengthening our rural schools and their communities.

What does this mean for the individual Iowa student?

According to data from the state Department of Education, public funding for education provided an average amount of $9,892 per child from taxpayers during the 2013-14 school year. And, with the 4 percent increase in state school aid this school year, the average per student funding will be more than $10,000. Of that total amount, 97 percent comes from local and state taxpayers. The other 3 percent comes from Washington, D.C. Iowans continue to make a strong investment in our children’s education.

Increasing funding isn’t the only way to make sure our kids have the best education possible.

In 2013, the legislature passed significant education reform legislation aimed at helping our teachers reach their potential. In the schools that have served as test pilots for these programs, significant improvements in test scores have already been achieved. This school year the state will be investing another $50 million into these efforts, as well as adding a $100 million in 2016 and 2017.

This state’s commitment to a quality education does not end once a student receives their high school diploma.

This fall marks the second consecutive year where the legislature has committed to funding levels needed to allow the Board of Regents to freeze tuition for students from Iowa at Iowa State, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa.

By holding the line on tuition, we are able to help students and their families reduce their need for student loans and make college more affordable for Iowans who may not otherwise have been able to attend. The last time tuition was frozen for two straight years was back in the mid-1970’s.

The legislature has also increased our support for community colleges. State funds to these critical players in our education and economic development efforts have grown by $52 million over the past four years. And for those students who go to one of Iowa’s private colleges, the eligible amount and funding for the Iowa Tuition Grant program has also been increased.

As we compete in the global marketplace, it is essential that we give our children all the tools possible to build successful lives.

Throughout the past four years, I have worked, in a bipartisan manner, to ensure the state is working to improve our education system at all levels. I will continue these efforts to give our children the best education possible in the future.

Thanks again for the blessing of serving southern Iowans. As always, please let me know should you have any questions.

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