Board hears from Hein, Koelker on school funding, other issues

School Board
Pete Temple
Express Associate Editor

Discussion about school funding took up much of the legislative forum put on by the Monticello School Board in place of its monthly work session Nov. 13. 

State Rep. Lee Hein (R-Monticello) and State Sen. Carrie Koelker (R-Dyersville) addressed those topics and more during the 70-minute session in the Administrative Board Room. 

Answering a question from Superintendent Brian Jaeger, Hein said the goal regarding school funding is to act quickly, as the Iowa Legislature did last session when it sent a general funding boost of 2.1 percent to the desk of Gov. Kim Reynolds in mid-February. 

“Pretty soon after we begin the session, we will try to get a number to you guys so you can start planning your budgets,” Hein said. “I would hope it would be sometime in late January or early February. We’ll try to get you guys a number as fast as we can, within reason.” 

Jaeger praised the legislators for two additional funding initiatives that were passed in the last two years: the extension of the SAVE (penny sales tax) funds to Jan. 1, 2051, allowing districts to plan for future infrastructure; and providing more operational sharing funding, which rewards districts for sharing certain positions with other districts. 

Monticello put the operational sharing to use by partnering with the Anamosa district to provide a social worker and a K-12 guidance counselor to assist with mental health and other issues, and to be shared by the two districts. 

“I just wanted to say what a positive that has been for us,” Jaeger said. 

The superintendent also shared some concerns. One of those was in the funding the Monticello district pays to Kirkwood Community College to send its students there. 

“It’s a positive,” Jaeger said. “If we saved the money and didn’t have Kirkwood, we could not offer the programming that Kirkwood has.” 

He asked the legislators, however if there was some way the district could have some relief from the amount it pays every year, or if that amount could be capped somehow. 

Similarly, Jaeger said the addition of a School Resource Officer in the Monticello district has been a positive, but it would help the district’s funding if that salary could be taken from somewhere other than the general fund. 

“This wouldn’t just be for us,” Jaeger said. “I think you would allow other districts who are afraid to make this jump because of the financial costs, to have the opportunity to have a school resource officer.” 

Jaeger also asked about vaping, a student health risk issue that he said “has come out of nowhere.” 

“The governor is looking into that as we speak,” Hein said. 

While the state is showing a surplus heading into the session, that doesn’t mean there will be enough funding to cover the concerns of every program. 

“There are plenty of places to spend the money,” Hein said, “Every year, we have to prioritize the spending, because there are always more wants than there are dollars, no matter how many dollars are there.” 

“There are so many programs that have not seen an increase at all, that we are going to have to focus on,” Koelker added. 

Among those mentioned during the meeting were highway patrol funding, can redemption center funding, and rural EMS funding. 

At the end, both Hein and Koelker extended invitations to “come and spend some time with us,” Hein said, at the statehouse in Des Moines. 

Such visits, Koelker added, “remind us why we’re there.” 


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