1. STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH
We support efforts to establish comprehensive community mental health systems. These systems will be designed to offer both preventative and treatment services and comprehensive mental health programs that include in-school access for students to mental health professionals and provisions for reimbursement by Medicaid and private insurers.
We also support additional ongoing teacher, administrator, and support staff training to improve the awareness and understanding of child emotional and mental health needs.
It is also the case that additional funding will be necessary to bring this priority into full form. We are supportive of funding models that expand dollars to further bolster the mental health system.
Setting Supplemental State Aid (SSA) within the statutory requirements allows districts to make sound financial decisions. We support setting SSA:
- For FY 2023, within the first 30 days of the Governor’s budget announcement;
- For FY 2024 and future budget years, at least 14 months prior to the certification of the school’s district budgets; and
- At a rate that sufficiently supports local districts’ efforts to plan, create and sustain world-class schools.
We also support a formula-driven method, which includes indicators of economic growth, for establishing the SSA growth rate if it is not set within the statutory requirements.
3. eMPLOYEE RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION
Teacher shortages across the state have become critical. Teacher recruitment to our university and college prep programs and incentives for teachers entering critical shortage areas are needed. As a state, we must encourage and incentivize individuals to both enter and remain in the teaching profession, through additional tools such as loan forgiveness programs and grants to make education careers a more attractive consideration.
Additionally, we are hopeful for flexibility within the Board of Educational Examiners regarding licensure requirements and expanded access to the Regents Alternative Pathway to Iowa Licensure programs.
We anticipate the recommendations of the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Task Force and hope it includes concepts similar to these as well as others such as raised starting pay, and other attraction and retention incentives.
The $15.00/hour service industry wages are also an added challenge in attracting and retaining other important staff roles in our schools.
4. dROPOUT PREVENTION/MODIFIED SUPPLEMENTAL AMOUNT (DOP/MSA)
DOP/MSA is supplemental funding for districts to support activities that are designed to reduce the number of students who drop out of high school. Prior to FY 2014, districts had the authority to have up to 5% of the local Supplemental State Aid amount voted on annually by the School Board for at-risk and dropout prevention support and services. Since FY14 the percentage each district was receiving was frozen at that level by legislative action, and that has created inequities. Waukee CSD is frozen at 3.8%. As the needs of our students continue to evolve, we are advocating that the percentage be unfrozen so we can consider an increase in the DOP/MSA funds.
5. LOCAL ACCOUNTABILITY
A firmly held belief in the Waukee CSD is that the solution to problems, as well as the advancement of opportunities are likely to be the most effective at the level closest to the problem or opportunity. This belief also applies to the important work of local school boards. We believe that local decision-making, coupled with local accountability, is the most appropriate environment for nurturing high-quality school systems.
6. SPECIAL EDUCATION FUNDING
We support predictable and timely state funding to serve students receiving special education services at a level that reflects the actual cost, including educational programming and health care costs. We also support an expectation that the School Budget Review Committee (SBRC) give serious consideration to increasing the funding levels currently used in special education weighting.
We support providing the flexibility to expand educational opportunities and choices for students and families. In so doing, the educational options must remain under the sole authority of locally elected school boards charged with representing community interests and accountability.
We oppose the use of additional taxpayer funds for the creation of vouchers or educational savings accounts or an increase in tax credits or deductions directed toward non-public schools.
In addition to the above-mentioned priorities, we are also supportive of the following:
1. UNFUNDED MANDATES
We oppose any new mandate that does not provide sufficient and sustainable funding for successful implementation.
2. BOND ISSUES
We support the authority to levy a combination of property taxes and income surtaxes to pay indebtedness. We support legislation to clarify that revenue bonds do not count toward a five percent statutory debt limit. We support allowing school bond issues to be passed by a simple majority vote. We support keeping the current bond referendum election dates at four per year.
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