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GOP plans supplemental funds for Iowa schools holding in-person classes

DES MOINES — Republican lawmakers are planning to reward public schools that held classes in-person this fall with more state money, a move Democrats describe as a slap at districts that held classes online.

House Speaker Pat Grassley of New Hartford said House Republicans may calculate the extra state aid based on the number of days a district had all students inside classrooms.

“If you were every day in the classroom, you are obviously going to have those added costs every day of substitutes, cleaning, all of those things,” Grassley said.

Senate Republicans are considering a $65 per pupil boost in state aid to schools that followed the governor’s orders on in-person instruction. Representative Jennifer Konfrst, a Democrat from Windsor Heights, said under that plan, Des Moines would be the only district in the state that wouldn’t get extra state funds.

“It is not one child’s fault that Des Moines administrators and the legislature and the governor didn’t agree, and this is going to hurt kids,” Konfrst said. “It’s ridiculous, it’s unfair and it’s wrong.”

The Des Moines School Board voted to start the school year online, without a state waiver to do so. Students started returning to classrooms in mid-October, then the district shifted back to virtual classes November 10.

Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has called the board’s decisions “unacceptable.” Some board members said in-person classes were too risky in a district with 31,000 students in crowded classrooms.

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