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Education continues to be a focus for us in the Senate, and this week a couple more bills aimed at improving education in Iowa passed the Iowa Senate. The first bill, which I filed, and was honored to floor manage Senate File 251, expands the definition of administrative costs within the Iowa code. Currently, code states administrative expenditures must not exceed five percent of a district’s general fund. The bill defines administrative expenditures as those which do not relate directly to students and their instruction. This definition includes salaries for administrators and office staff, school administration, general administration, and data processing and collection services. The bill exempts schools with less than 1,000 students so we are not inhibiting schools that rely on sharing agreements or rural and small schools from being able to provide essential services.

The goal with this legislation is to ensure the billions of dollars spent on K-12 education in Iowa is thoughtfully spent with a focus on getting more money into the classroom for instruction and teacher salaries rather than growing administration. In Iowa, the number of students has increased 9 percent, and teachers have increased 25 percent between FY 1993 and FY 2021. At the same time the increase in all other school district staff was 60 percent. Administrative staffing and costs are rising at a rate far above the increase of students and teachers.

Approximately two-thirds of district expenditures come from their general fund. Based on FY 2021 estimates, of this fund, less than half of those expenditures went directly to instruction in terms of teacher and para educator salaries, general supplies, and curriculum materials. This data shows on average, roughly only a third of the money schools spend is spent in the classroom. While administration, facilities, and other services are necessary, we want to ensure money is first and foremost going to teachers and classrooms for the instruction of students.

Another bill, Senate File 398 would require the Department of Education to provide educational resources and technical assistance to school districts with career and technical student organizations related to robotics and robotics teams and competitions. The bill would also allow robotics organizations to receive money from a school district to pay dues or membership fees, or to sponsor or administer interscholastic contests or competitions related to robotics. Robotics activities are a great way to expose students to STEM learning through hands-on experiences and helps them develop important skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and other skills needed in our workforce today. This bill will allow additional resources to support and expand robotics programs across the state and allow more students to benefit from the program.

Author: Brad Zaun


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