RSAI 2023 Legislative Priorities were approved by the membership at the Annual Meeting on Oct. 25, 2022.
Adequate School Resources:the increase in SSA provides the resources for Iowa schools to deliver an educational experience for students that meets the expectations of Iowa parents, communities, employers and policymakers. What schools can deliver is dependent on the level of funding provided, which begins with the 2023-24 school year and requires a consistent and sustainable commitment:
Iowa’s school foundation formula must maintain balanced state and local resources, be predictable, and assure adequate time for budget planning and staffing.
Download the Adequate School Resources Position Paper
Education Staff Shortage: In addition to sufficient SSA, strategies to rebuild Iowa’s education workforce must address two areas during an unprecedented staff shortage:
In both the short and long term, legislation, policy, and public support will not only provide improved compensation for educators, but must also foster the respect for the education profession that is well deserved. Only when we are able to do this will Iowa be able to have adequate numbers of quality individuals educating our children.
Download the Education Staff Shortage Position Paper
Public School Priority: Public schools must be adequately funded and supported by the state. Investments in education savings accounts, voucher programs, school tuition organizations or home school, whether by tax credit or direct appropriation, remove resources from public schools in three ways;
RSAI is opposed to all forms of education savings accounts/voucher programs/additional public funds appropriated for private or home school. Such programs traditionally do not include accountability for tax expenditures, are not required to educate and assess all children or provide special education services, and are hidden from the public oversight that accompanies public funding. With recent expansions to unlimited open enrollment to any public school in Iowa, combined with Iowa’s current public investment in private religious schools and home school exceeding $80 million, even small demonstration programs or pilot projects should be resisted; the camel’s nose under the tent is soon followed by the humps.
Download the Public School Priority Position Paper
Opportunity Equity: resources based on at-risk need, in addition to enrollment. All school boards should have the opportunity to access up to 5% dropout prevention funding. School districts should be granted spending authority for FRPL waived fees. Iowa should study the impact of poverty on educational outcomes and best practice of other states in closing associated achievement gaps, leading toward a significant and urgent update to Iowa’s School Foundation Formula in funding programs for Iowa’s neediest students. Investments in programs for at-risk students prepare them for full participation in the workforce, improve school safety for all students, minimize tax increases to remediate social costs later and improve outcomes for students and families.
Download the Opportunity Equity/Poverty Position Paper
Quality Preschool: funding of quality statewide voluntary preschool at the 1.0 per pupil cost for full-time or prorated proportionally. Formula protections against budget and program impacts of preschool enrollment swings (budget guarantee/on-time spending authority). Full-day programming increases the opportunity for parent workforce participation, allows Iowa’s limited childcare workforce capacity to focus on younger children, prevents later special education consequences, improves literacy and prepares students for learning.
Download the Quality Preschool Position Paper
Sharing Incentives/Efficiencies: extension of Whole Grade Sharing, Reorganization and Operational Sharing Incentives. Expand the 21-student cap to allow access to new flexibility. Weightings should be sufficient to encourage and support sharing opportunities, with a 3-student weighting at a minimum. The addition of new positions over the last few years, such as the work-based learning coordinator and school resource officer, demonstrates the value of continuing sharing incentives for both efficiency and extended opportunities for students.
Download the Sharing Incentives/Efficiencies Position Paper
Student Mental Health: increased access to funded community mental health services for children. Address the shortage of mental health professionals statewide, provide resources for local districts to train school staff in social-emotional learning awareness and build community capacity to collaborate for a collective solution to the increasing mental health needs of children.
Download the Student Mental Health Position Paper
Local School Board Authority: locally elected leaders closest to the community are in the best position to determine the interest of students, staff, district and stakeholders. District leaders need maximum flexibility to provide a great education to all students. The Legislature, the Executive Branch and the courts should follow Iowa Code 274.3 and liberally construe statutes to effectuate local control.
Download the Local School Board Authority Position Paper
Formula and Transportation Equity: continue investments in formula equity, closing the state and district per pupil gap within ten years and maintain the commitment to transportation equity support without burdensome reporting requirements. General fund directed at transportation is not available to spend on teachers, curriculum and opportunities for students. According to the DE’s 2020-21 Annual Transportation Report, transportation expenditures per pupil ranged from $27 per pupil to $1,012 per pupil. Thanks to the transportation equity funding commitment, all districts with high expenditures were reimbursed down to the state average of $353 per pupil. Inequities in the formula, based on no longer relevant historical spending over 40 years ago, must be corrected to support resources for all Iowa students.