Iowa City schools consider funding options for new preschool programs

Iowa City Community School District will reevaluate the budget for its potential preschool funding after school board members were dissatisfied.


Shuntaro Kawasaki

Iowa City Community School District board members react during a meeting at the Professional Development Center at the Educational Services Center in Iowa City on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023.

Jack Moore, News Reporter

Funding for more Iowa City Community School District preschool program options is still being considered following a school board member debate on Tuesday. 

Members of the Iowa City Community School District Board discussed the plans for the two new preschool programs — with before and after-school care — during its meeting, which includes creating a preschool experience for all four-year-olds in the school district regardless of family income.

The school board passed a motion to revise the budget for the potential project that is projected to provide more care for all students and pay for supplies, instructional materials, transportation, meals and snacks, and administrative costs.

The budgeted operational cost of the program would be $4,169,928 in total, while the operational cost per student would be $7,637. There are 18 preschool sites across the district to educate 589 total students, according to Iowa City schools data

The plans include local-option sales tax as a potential funding source for the project, which would allocate 10 percent of the district’s revenue for the new preschool program. Iowa City does not currently have a local-option sales tax, but five other cities in Johnson County do. 

“Based on similarly sized population centers, [local-option sales tax] would generate approximately $18,000,000 per year,” the plan states.

RELATED: Iowa City school board members voice concern for public school funding after the passage of Students First Act

When discussing a local-option sales tax as a potential source of revenue for the preschool project, Board Member Maka Pilcher Hayek questioned why the tax was being chosen as the revenue source. 

“We never voted on it. We never discussed it … tell me why we chose it. Do any of you know?,” Pilcher Hayek said.  

In response, board Vice President Lisa Williams said she did not believe there were other funding options for the county to use for the program. 

“I don’t think there’s another single untapped revenue source in Johnson County…LOST is the only funding pool that this county and its municipalities haven’t tapped into. So that’s the only choice because we’re not going to get the funding from the legislature,” Williams said. “There’s not going to be a grant that falls out of government sky. The Federal Congress isn’t funding anytime soon.”