Budget Woes May Delay Mandatory Summer School for Struggling Third Graders

Apr 12, 2016

It will be another year before Iowa schools will be required to offer mandatory summer school for third graders not reading at grade level, under a preliminary education budget unveiled at the capitol today.

Lawmakers of both parties say there’s not enough money to start the program as scheduled in 2017.   

Under the proposed budget, schools will now have until 2018 to offer summer help to struggling third graders and to require children to repeat the grade if they don’t attend.      

Education Budget co-chair Brian Schoenjahn (D-Arlington) said the program will cost schools roughly $10 million.   He says schools are already struggling and can’t afford the cost on their own.

“We can not go forward with an unfunded mandate,” Schoenjahn said.   “This is real money so if it’s not going to be funded it’s not going to occur.” 

Governor Branstad did not include money for the program in his budget, arguing he could wait until next year and still start the program on time.     

“We disagree with that,” Schoenjahn said.   “It’s bipartisan.   Both sides, both chambers.”

Mandatory summer school for students not reading at grade level is part of a 2013 education reform bill. 

Officials with the Iowa Department of Education say they are preparing guidelines for schools to follow for the mandatory summer school.

The program is a compromise between some Republicans who favored holding third graders back and some Democrats who object to having kids repeat a grade.