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Iowa Senate debates bill that would allow school boards to shift money from the general education budget to cover deficits in sports, music or activities

By Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer | Apr 1, 2021

With fundraisers canceled, a limit on attendance, and reduced student fees, sports, music and other activities have taken a hit at Iowa’s schools, including Estherville Lincoln Central, North Union and Graettinger-Terril.

The budgets may get a boost for shrinking revenue from last year, this year and next school year. A bill ready for debate in the Iowa Senate would let school boards shift money from a district’s general education budget to cover deficits in extracurricular programs or co-curricular activities like speech competitions. The options would be available for last year — when there were no springtime music concerts or track and golf meets — and for the current school year as well as the next.

The Senate Education Committee considered the bill Tuesday after the proposal won unanimous approval in the Iowa House.

Some of Iowa’s largest schools lost tens of thousands of dollars in ticket sales as attendance at football and basketball games was often limited to parents and siblings of the players. Governor Reynolds set statewide restrictions on fans in the stands in mid-November as Covid cases surged in Iowa, but lifted those limits in December.

Also released Tuesday from the Iowa Department of Education, joint enrollment in Community College by high school students continues to rise.

Department of Education Consultant, Jen Rathje, reviewed the report during the State Board of Education’s recent meeting “Joint enrollment of high school students reached an all-time record high of 51,800 during academic year 19-20. This accounted for a 2.4% increase since the year prior,” Rathje said.

Since 2004, the enrollment in dual credit courses has risen 146%. high school students who also take community college classes get a lot of benefits from them. “Research indicates that joint enrollment opportunities ease the transition of students from secondary to post-secondary education,” she says. “And students who participate in joint-enrollment are more likely to graduate high school, immediately enroll in college, have higher college grade point averages, and persist to completion compared to their peers.”

Nearly 45 percent of the high school students who take community college classes are seniors, 34 percent are juniors.