Allowable growth a major concern among rural school districts

A major concern was brought up my some lawmakers at the beginning of the 2013 General Assembly in Des Moines on Monday, allowable growth for school districts.

â??Last year, they did not set the allowable growth rate, so we are making assumptions and basically not knowing what we are going to need for out budget,â?? said Joel Pedersen, Superintendent of the Cardinal Community School District.

Pedersen and his staff know exactly how hard it is to make a budget and not know how much extra funding his district is going to receive from the state.

â??With declining enrollment, the allowable growth is very important because we are receiving less money anyway; so allowable growth allows us to pay salary costs, fuel costs and also to pay for some of our needs,â?? Pedersen said.

For superintendents all across the state, the earlier lawmakers and the governorâ??s office decide on a percentage, the better.

â??We need it to be settled early in the session and not hold off until May or June when we have already sent our budgets to the county and state auditors,â?? Pedersen said. â??We need it to be adequate and settled in the beginning of the session, and the first 30 days would be the best.â??

Pedersen and his leadership team agree that they provide the best education possible, and it does show. Test scores are increasing among Cardinal Students. The district is also seeing a decrease in failing students, due to new programs initiated last school year; however, those are some of the accomplishments that could be in jeopardy over-time, if lawmakers do not come to a decision soon.

â??When you look at our area, especially our area of the Heartland, a majority of our districts are losing enrollment, except for a few. Also, it is getting very difficulty to deal with declining enrollment on-top of lower allowable growth rates; so when you put those things together, it makes it tougher and tougher to run your school district, and to also provide a quality education when you are not receiving the proper funding that is needed on a yearly basis,â?? Pedersen said.

Cardinal, as well as many other smaller districts in southeast Iowa would like to see the state give out a four percent rate for allowable growth for the upcoming school year.

â??I think four percent allowable growth is what we are asking for. I believe somewhere between two and four is where we are going to end-up. We are hearing two percent, but we would really like to see four percent; because we have for a number of years seen zero, one and two percent. To be honest, it is just getting tougher and tougher every year with that lower allowable growth rate,â?? Pedersen said.