DES MOINES – The Iowa Association of School Boards wants state lawmakers to imagine a level playing field for school districts.
Board members have found there’s a huge difference between what some districts are paying, just to get their students in the door. The thought is, if they can reduce those costs, it can mean better scores all across the state.
“What I’ve seen is having to do more with less, bottom line,” said Dr. Kevin Fiene, Interstate 35 Superintendent.
The Iowa Association of School Boards is working on a five-year plan that would eventually restock the funds for transportation across its school districts.
“It only seems fair to Iowans that they should have fairness in their funding and then hold people accountable for the results,” said Galen Howsare, Deputy Executive Director for IASB.
The proposal is mostly geared toward the rural schools. Interstate 35 is one of those, with its student population spread out across several cities.
“Sometimes people talk about consolidation, and where that really goes off the rails is geographically, we’re large enough as it is,” said Dr. Kevin Fiene, Interstate 35 Superintendent.
About 900 students are enrolled in Interstate 35’s district. About 75 percent of them take the bus every day. Some students live up to 20 miles away from school, so that can mean riding the bus for about an hour every day, often twice a day.
“Every dollar that we spend on transportation is a dollar that we can’t spend directly on the teaching and learning environment,” said Dr. Kevin Fiene, Interstate 35 Superintendent.
At Interstate, it costs these kids more than $660 per year, just for transportation. It’s a number that could be even higher if fewer kids drove themselves.
Fiene says putting that money back in the general fund could be a big boost to learning in each classroom. The school has already taken steps to reduce its costs, by cutting a route last year. Now, there are 16 buses in its fleet, which run 11 routes daily.
“We could look to do 3 or 4 more positions, offer more programs,” said Fiene. “There’s just things that we could. It just bothers me that we spend so much on transportation.”
And as the district works on updating its equipment, and preparing its students for the future, Fiene says the hope is they’ll have more money to compete.
“It’s good for kids to raise the bar, and get them college- and career-ready,” said Fiene.