Achievement and resources — finding the balance

Governor Branstad’s recent education summit drew over 1,600 people, and prominent speakers including the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, former North Carolina Governor James Hunt and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The forum tapped widespread concern about student achievement in Iowa and the United States. While the summit stressed the importance of teacher excellence, accountability and innovation for Iowa, most speakers stated this will not be achieved without new investments in education. What are those trends in Iowa?

The widening interest in student achievement has coincided with a decrease in overall state education funding over the past 13 years. The graph above illustrates the steadily declining levels of state education funding. As a share of the economy, overall state funding for education has declined by 17 percent since Fiscal Year 1998. Funding for higher education — both at community colleges and Board of Regents universities — has borne the brunt of that reduction.

Long, Steady Decline in Overall State Education Funding
education spending graph

One point also noteworthy about the graph is the impact of federal “stimulus” funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Frequently a target of political spin, the ARRA funding is demonstrated in this chart and other research to have made an important difference in saving education funding from severe cuts, particularly in 2010, the year Iowa faced a 10 percent across-the-board budget cut. ARRA bridged a gap to hold education funding relatively constant, though still far lower than its levels in the 1990s.

See World Class on a Shoestring Budget? at for more information.

Posted by Andrew Cannon, Research Associate

Author: iowapolicypoints

Iowa Policy Points is a blog of Common Good Iowa, a new organization built on a collective 50 years of experience of two respected Iowa organizations — the Child and Family Policy Center and the Iowa Policy Project. Learn more at

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