Big funding increase secured for community colleges

Kraayenbrink credited

Iowa Central Community College will benefit from a $6 million increase in aid for community colleges negotiated by state Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink.

The Republican from Fort Dodge struck a deal with state Rep. David Kerr, R-Morning Sun, that resulted in the boost for the colleges.

“We made a gentleman’s agreement that these are the priorities that best serve Iowans,” Kraayenbrink said Wednesday afternoon.

The increase in aid was included in a $985 million spending bill approved by the Senate Tuesday. It was approved by the House of Representatives Wednesday afternoon.

The bill now goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is expected to sign it.

Iowa Central President Dan Kinney said the $6 million is the largest increase in state aid in the 10 years he’s led the school.

“My thanks to Tim Kraayenbrink with his leadership with the Appropriations Committee,” Kinney said. “I definitely thank Sen. Kraayenbrink on that.”

There is a formula for distributing the state aid between Iowa’s 15 community colleges. Figures on how much additional money Iowa Central will get via that formula were unavailable Wednesday. Kinney said the funding increase will have a “positive impact” on the school.

At the beginning of the year, Reynolds proposed a $4.7 million increase for community colleges. The Senate concurred, including a $4.7 million increase in its initial proposed budget.

The House proposed a $7 million increase.

A compromise was necessary and it fell to Kraayenbrink and Kerr to negotiate it. They are the chairmen of the Education Appropriations Subcommittees in their chambers of the Legislature.

The bill also includes $500,000 for reducing the waiting lists of students seeking English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at community colleges.

Kraayenbrink said the colleges that have the longest waiting lists will get the biggest percentage of that money. Iowa Central, he said is “kind of in the middle” of that list.

Also included in the bill is $1 million for the Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates program, also called IJAG. That program provides drop-out prevention and job training.

The Fort Dodge Community School District will become part of that program in the 2019-2020 academic year.

The bill funds the Department of the Blind, the Department of Education, the Iowa College Student Aid Commission, the 15 community colleges and the Iowa Board of Regents.

The bill collectively provides a $40.1 million increase over the current budget.

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