WEST BURLINGTON — While speaking with West Burlington School Board members and Rep. Dennis Cohoon Monday night during a work session, Sen. Tom Greene said either local property tax dollars should stay with their districts or Burlington should be represented on the board. 

Greene, having heard concerns from many of his constituents about local tax dollars going to another district, spoke in support of a bill that was put forward by Cohoon in 2011 that proposed federal and state dollars follow students who open enroll out of their districts and local dollars stay with the district in which those students reside, but the bill did not gain much traction. If not that, Greene said, Burlington should have a voice on the West Burlington School Board. 

The suggestion was not received well by the board members, who oversee a district whose student population is comprised largely of open enrolled students, the majority of whom live within the Burlington School District's boundaries. The Burlington School District pays about $2.9 million to the West Burlington School District in per pupil funding for those students. 

Each of the districts receive $6,664 per pupil. That amount is comprised of about a third each of local property, state and federal taxes.

"To me, it's taxation without representation," Greene said. 

Hockett took issue with Greene's statement and, in turn, boasted the district's accomplishments, citing it's 98.1 percent graduation rate, the nine consecutive bronze medal awards it's received from U.S. News & World Report, it's ACT scores and an award from Newsweek it received that placed it in the top 500 districts in the nation working to overcome the obstacles faced by students dealing with economic disadvantages. 

He said those factors, especially when taking into account West Burlington spends about $11,000 per student, according to figures he reached by dividing the district's overall expenditures by their number of students, indicate the district is "a bargain for taxpayers. 

Hockett and Superintendent David Schmitt also pointed out Burlington gets more money from the Secure an Advanced Vision of Education, or penny sales tax, fund, the dollars of which do not follow students, though that would change if House File 49 were to become law. 

Cohoon said the per pupil bill likely won't move forward anyway, especially because it hasn't had support from the Iowa Department of Education or governor. He also said the issue of losing students to open enrollment is really only an issue for Burlington, Des Moines, Waterloo and West Burlington, and therefore wouldn't garner enough votes in the Legislature. 

Greene, however, said open enrollment is a big issue in Columbus Junction, Wapello and West Liberty.

Additionally, Cohoon said the bill probably won't come up until a new funding formula is determined. 

The current funding formula has gained criticism from school officials throughout the state, particularly those whose districts receive less money in per pupil funding than others. 

"If you look at all the per pupil amounts in the state, I think it's $175 of variance. We have the lowest per pupil amount with about 60 percent of the districts at about $6,664 per pupil and the maximum is $6,839, with the average at $6,695," Schmitt said. 

When asked where things are in terms of equalizing the equation, Cohoon indicated nothing will be done anytime soon. 

"We don't seem to have the expertise that we used to in a lot of areas," Cohoon said, explaining the Legislature lacks people with a firm understanding of things like education and transportation funding.

The answer was a disappointing one. 

"That's a hard answer to hear, that we're not getting as much money as other districts because we don't have the talent at the state level to figure it out," board president Andy Crowner said.