MUSCATINE — While a study looks positively on Iowa's K-12 funding, Superintendent Jerry Riibe cautioned Wednesday that even with per pupil spending increased, a declining enrollment will mean less education dollars to go around over time.
Iowa is among 19 states to have increased investment in elementary and secondary education since the 2008 recession according to a analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Though North Dakota, Illinois and Alaska each invested more, Iowa's total state funding per student, adjusted for inflation, increased by 20.6 percent between 2008 and 2015.
"Yes there was an increase, but in our case, we had a decline of enrollment so the actual money that we received was less than what we would have received the year before," Riibe said. "And some of the monies we received are categorical so it can only be spent on certain things."
He explained that some of the growth in education funding reported by the CBPP can be explained through contributions to categorical funds like the Teacher Leadership Fund. Even if the school district receives additional funding, if that addition is categorical, the school district's hands are tied in how they spend it.
"Over the last five years we've cut maybe $6 (million) or $7 million from the budget but we haven't eliminated any programs," Riibe said. "We've done a lot restructuring and finding different ways to do things. But we're looking at a million dollar shortfall next year.
"We will continue to find ways to make sure our programs don't suffer," Riibe said. "But if you are to look at the next 10 years with a zero to 2 percent increase in state funding, we're not going to be able to sustain things as they are."
With his eyes to the future, Riibe is looking at systems the region has and what it could have.
"I've always said that we are struggling to fund a system that we probably would not replicate if we started from scratch," Riibe said. "There needs to be a conversation statewide about what we need from an education system. How are we going to fund that system, and what will it look like? Should it look the way that it did 80 years ago?"