Republican State Senators Jim Carlin and Brad Zaun moved a bill out of a subcommittee on Tuesday afternoon that would set in place a limit on the amount of administrative costs for school districts.
Senate File 2, filed by Sen. Zaun, states that the portion of the total authorized expenditures of a school district that is budgeted for administrative costs shall not exceed five percent of the total authorized expenditures of a school district.
Sen. Carlin said Sioux City has had some “real problems” with the issue. The superintendent gave $25,000 raises to some of his administrative employees without school board oversight.
Emily Piper with the Iowa Association of School Boards said the group opposes the legislation because a limit of five percent is already established in two different code sections.
“So we just don’t see what this would do to change that,” she said. “My question would be more for you, what is it that you don’t see being accomplished by the current law?”
David Wilkerson of the School Administrators of Iowa said he too is opposed to the bill.
“What Sen. Carlin was talking about, those are things that just should not happen,” he said. “If a school board is not approving contracts and approving raises, then that administrator is already in violation, in my opinion, that’s an ethics violation.”
Melissa Peterson with the Iowa State Education Association said the group is undecided and noted that the group shares similar concerns as Sen. Carlin.
“While this might not be the best way to address it, we would be interested in doing what we could to help explore further how we could prevent the issue Sen. Carlin brought up from occurring in school districts,” she said. “We’re big fans of appropriate stewardship of taxpayer dollars and if we could be part of the solution, I’d be happy to do that.”
Democrat State Sen. Eric Giddens said he appreciated the testimony of the education stakeholders.
“I had the same questions myself about what was insufficient in the current code and if there could possibly be other ways to address some of the concerns like Sen. Carlin has raised,” he said. “I think I’m going to hold off right now. There are just too many unanswered questions for me.”
Carlin said he and Zaun routinely hear about classroom sizes and teacher shortages.
“So if the motivation behind what you’re doing here is to address that – we seem to be spending a lot more money on administration than teacher shortages and classroom sizes,” Carlin said. “I think this is a conversation worth having and pursuing.”
Zaun said this is the first time he was told it was already in code.
“If it is in the code, I could tell you that it’s not being enforced,” he said.
Data shows that districts are not following the law if the law is already in place.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of school districts where their administrative costs are growing out of control,” he said. “We want to put the money into teacher’s salaries. We want to put the money into the classroom. And I see a delineation of that over the last probably two decades.”