An Iowa Department of Education official says the organization is taking a cautious approach in instituting updates to a program that provides school districts with extra state financial help if they share positions to cut costs. Department deputy director, Jeff Berger, says the program had been limited to sharing operational and maintenance positions. But, he says that appears to have changed with the renewal of the program by the Iowa Legislature.
Berger says the original law ramped down the additional funding by 20-percent over time, but the new version does not do that. The original bill only allowed for sharing between contiguous districts, but the new bill does not have that provision. Berger says the Education Department’s biggest question is if the bill is meant to help districts add new staff as part of a sharing arrangement.
Berger says the state could spend a minimum of 20-million-dollars to a maximum of 85-million dollars depending on the participation. The program currently spends 13-million dollars. Thirty-five percent of the program is paid for through property tax, so the expansion would be a hit to taxpayers.
The State Board of Education gave initial approval to the conservative rules for the update program at their meeting last week. The issue will now go to a public hearing and then to a legislative review committee.