Sunday, January 31, 2016

Enrollment by the Numbers

In Iowa, school districts officially count students on October 1st of each year. Those numbers are then used by the Department of Education to determine the amount of state funding each district will receive for the following school year. The official numbers for each district were released by the Department of Education last week.

Since students in Iowa have the ability to attend school in a district other than the district in which they live through Open Enrollment a Superintendent needs to be aware of two important numbers when preparing the schools budget.

Certified Enrollment - made up of all residents students who live in your district whether they Open Enroll to another district or not.

Resident students + Open Enrolled Out students = Certified Enrollment

Total Enrollment Served - These are the actual K - 12 students who are in your building every day or "Butts in Seat" enrollment numbers.

Resident students + Open Enrolled In students = Total Enrollment Served

Since State Funding follows the student every district hopes that their Total Enrollment Served Number is higher than their Certified Enrollment Number.

Below are two spreadsheets, one showing enrollment numbers as counted on October 1st, 2015 by area districts, and the second showing Certified Enrollment Numbers for the same districts over the past five years.   Sadly, for all the school districts included in the spreadsheets, certified enrollment numbers have declined over the past five years.

Enrollment Numbers as of October 1st, 2015

Certified Enrollment 5-Year Trend

State funding to schools is paid on a per student basis to schools.  When you combine declining enrollment in Iowa's rural schools with an insufficient increase in State Supplemental Aid (1.87% average increase over the past six years) it becomes very difficult for small, rural schools to continue offering a "World Class Education," to quote the Governor.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Matter of Priorities

I just finished reading the February 5th update from Representative Brian Best and as usual, I couldn’t let a couple of his comments pass without responding. 

First let me preface my comments by saying that I fired off a rather angry email a week or so ago to Representative Best when the House of Representatives supported the Governor’s education increase of 1.25% for next year.  I pointed out to Representative Best that he and the House Republicans has just voted to raise property taxes statewide by $16.3 million as almost half the school districts in the state would be on budget guarantee which is all paid by local property owners. So you can imagine my surprise when I read his comment below from this weeks update concerning the state of Iowa increasing the gas tax to pay for roads and bridges:

“Generally, however I am in favor of increasing the gas tax by 10 cents.
This is a tough decision for me because I believe we already pay a lot in taxes. That said, our infrastructure issues need to be addressed, and this is truly the most practical way. Without action, I feel I would be supporting tax increases in another form when counties are forced to bond and property owners then take on the full brunt of the levy.”

I think what Representative Best meant to say was that he didn’t want to support increasing local property taxes AGAIN by not supporting the 10 cents a gallon gas tax.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully in support of increasing the gas tax to fix our roads and bridges as we sorely need that in rural Iowa, but it makes me wonder why he is so concerned about raising local property taxes in this case but yet didn’t seem very concerned when it came to raising taxes instead of adequately funding public education?

The other comment that appeared in this weeks update concerned the investigation into the new state prison.  I don’t know if you have been following this story but the new prison in Fort Madison has been delayed because of problems with the geothermal heating and the smoke detection system.  They are at least a year behind on the $165.5 million facility that will hold 800 inmates.  I’m not a prison expert so I don’t doubt that Iowa needs a new prison. What really caught my eye concerning the prison is that the ongoing cost to Iowa taxpayers in this new (not quite ready, behind schedule) prison is estimated to be $40,598 per prisoner per year!  Yet the Iowa House of Representatives can’t seem to find enough money to pay more than $6,445 per student for education next year?

I guess its all a matter of priorities…what’s the old saying, “You can pay me now or you can pay me an additional $34,154 per year later?”