Understanding DMPS Funding Needs
It’s been a busy few weeks at the Capitol as our legislators have been debating school funding, also known as State Supplemental Aid (SSA). As it stands, as of February 21, 2020, the Senate has approved a 2.1% increase in SSA, while the House has approved a 2.5% increase. We believe both amounts are inadequate and fall well short of what is required to meet the educational needs of DMPS students.
Why are the proposed State Supplemental Aid levels inadequate for DMPS? Why should parents, teachers, and advocates of DMPS support a request for higher SSA?
SSA funding has not kept up with labor costs (as shown in figure below).
SSA dollars go into the DMPS General Fund, which pays for some programs in the classroom, but primarily covers DMPS staff salaries and benefits. Each year, over the last 4 years, SSA has not kept pace with the Employment Cost Index for total compensation. Meaning, SSA has not provided enough money to cover the increase in salaries and benefits.
Given that compensation is the largest expense for DMPS, this creates a gap in the amount of money coming into the General Fund, compared to what is going out to pay DMPS staff. It also limits the ability to hire needed associates and school support staff. While many creative solutions have been implemented in DMPS to minimize the impact on classrooms, the negative consequences to students and teachers is impossible to avoid and compounds over time.
Gap Between SSA and Labor Costs
The SSA funding formula isn’t equitable; it does not reflect the needs associated with teaching English Language Learners (ELL) and kids living in poverty.
Giving school districts the same amount of money for each student (per pupil funding) sounds reasonable but it’s not realistic in terms of adequately meeting the needs of DMPS students.
Understanding Equality vs. Equity
The picture above depicts what happens when the same resource is allotted to individuals with different needs. The same approach holds true when funding students in public education.
As the largest and most diverse district in Iowa, DMPS students have a multitude of needs. These needs are magnified by the increasing rate of poverty seen among DMPS families. Poverty is measured by the number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. Currently, 76% of the nearly 33,000 students in DMPS hit that measure.
So, what’s the solution? Consider weighted funding for student needs.
Scenario A. The state of Iowa does not use weighted funding for children in poverty, despite evidence that this is necessary to bridge the opportunity gap among our students. If the state would add a 0.22 weight (i.e., the same weight that is given for English Language Learners), DMPS would receive an additional $40.3 M dollars annually to address the unique educational needs of students in poverty.
With the $40M increase, DMPS wouldn’t be talking about budget reductions, but providing the much-needed services that ALL of our students deserve. Keep in mind, that doesn’t mean there would be an additional cost to the state, overall. It could be a reallocation among the schools. Yes, some would get less, but at least, it would recognize that poverty has costs and challenges that need to be funded.
|Category||Student Count||Weighting||Regular Program Per Pupil||Additional Funding|
|Free & Reduced||25,850||0.22||$7,093||$40,337,891|
Scenario B. Currently, the state provides weighted funding for English Language Learner students at one weight: 0.22, regardless of English proficiency. To be equitable, the state could tier the ELL weighting to support students based on their level of English proficiency, similar to weighted funding for Special Education.
The example below breaks down the number of students in different Tiers, which is essentially the level at which a student is proficient in English. Tier 1 are students with greatest needs, Tier 3 with lowest needs. The ELL Weighting number is different to reflect more or less additional funding to meet the need level of students.
(Note: Legislators have started to recognize the need for tiered ELL funding, as reflected in the bill, HF2419. This is a good start and we encourage parents and community members to support it.)
|Student Count||ELL Weighting||Regular Program Per Pupil||Additional Funding|
Overall, the current funding strategy is not cutting it. We, as members of the DMPS Community Legislative Action Team (CLAT) echo the call for an equitable approach to school funding, one based on student needs. This would not only benefit DMPS students, but ALL K-12 public schools across the State of Iowa!
WHAT CAN YOU DO??
Take 5 minutes out of your day to advocate on behalf of DMPS students and teachers.
Click here to find your Legislator
Call them at their number or call the switchboard and leave a message for your Legislator.
House: 515-281-3221. Senate: 515-281-3371
Tell them why adequate and equitable school funding is important to you and your community! Encourage your friends and family to do the same!
We thank you for your support and your advocacy for DMPS students and staff.