Leaders from business, labor, education, and the community gathered today to announce their unified support in advocating for parity in education funding so that all school districts in Iowa will receive an equitable amount of funding. Those in attendance included Tara Barney, President & CEO, Quad Cities Chamber, Kelli Grubbs, President of VictoryStores.com and Past Chair of the Quad Cities Chamber Board of Directors, John Riches with Arconic, Rory Washburn with the Tri-City Building and Construction Trades Council, Michael Reyes from LULAC, Vera Kelly from NAACP, and Maria Dickmann, Davenport Alderwoman.
Schools are currently funded by a state formula which was implemented in 1971. This formula is a combination of local property taxes with state money to ensure a “per pupil” funding amount. This formula causes disparity in funding that has resulted in approximately half of all Iowa schools receiving less by up to $175 per pupil. Both the Davenport and North Scott School Districts are among those that do not receive any of the additional $175 per pupil allotment. If the districts in the Iowa Quad Cities all received the full allotment, that would equate to an additional $6.1 million in education spending to prepare a future workforce.
“A strong workforce is a differentiating strength for our region,” says Tara Barney, President & CEO, Quad Cities Chamber. “Workforce is the number one issue that we hear from local employers, and it is also the top consideration among new businesses seeking a community in which to locate. The Quad Cities recently welcomed an opportunity to build a Sterilite manufacturing and distribution facility with 500 jobs, and last year Kraft Heinz announced they would invest $200 million in a new facility in the Quad Cities. Our community earned these two opportunities due to the strength of our workforce, and to continue holding our competitive advantage into the future, we need to ensure that education is adequately funded and that we are giving our next generation of workers the cutting edge skills our businesses will need to excel.”
As area leaders prepare for the 2017 Iowa legislative session to begin, equitable school funding will be one of the legislative priorities for the Quad Cities Chamber.
“The Tri-City Building and Construction Trades strongly supports this effort to change the school funding formula and ensure that our schools have the funding they need to educate our future workers,” says Rory Washburn, Executive Director of the Tri-City Building and Construction Trades Council. “We look to the secondary school systems to instill in young adults the type of skills they’ll need to succeed in industry, and to that end it’s essential that our community get behind this effort to support our schools.”
"It's time for the legislature to take a hard look at the funding formula and examine why some districts are trapped in a long-term short funding situation,” says Kelli Grubbs, President of VictoryStores.com. “This isn't a matter of the government spending more money, it's a matter of every student receiving an equal amount through the funding formula."
Business and community leaders have several opportunities in the coming months to communicate with policymakers on this issue as well as others. The Quad Cities Chamber will host its annual trip to Des Moines on February 8 – 9, as well as Legislative Luncheons on January 20 and March 10. Guests will have time during each of these events to discuss issues of importance to our region with our state legislators. For more information, visit QuadCitiesChamber.com.