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New education reform proposed by Iowa governor

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 11:04 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 11:04 a.m. CDT

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series on education reform. See Thursday’s paper for the second part focusing on local opinions of the proposal.

By BAILEY POOLMAN

CNA staff reporter bpoolman@crestonnews.com

New education reform has been in discussion since Jan. 14, when Gov. Terry Branstad unveiled the $187 million proposal to the public.

“I think it’s a very exciting opportunty for real change in schools,” said Karleen Stephens, Diagonal School District superintendent and elementary principal.

Iowa’s education status

In 1992, Iowa ranked fifth in the nation in education. As of 2011, Iowa was ranked 25th.

The change in ranking is not from lack of good education, but rather of better education in other states.

“I think teachers are working smarter and harder than they ever have ... but I’m also aware that the ways we’ve been doing things, we’ve flatlined,” said Creston Schools interim Superintendent Chuck Scott.

Scott suggested the question is not what Iowa is doing wrong, but what are the other states doing right so that Iowa can look at their methods and accelerate learning locally.

The proposal

Branstad’s proposal consists of several approaches to increase the teacher’s status and make the position more attractive. These approaches include raising the teacher’s minimum starting pay, from $28,000 to $35,000, pay teachers more money the more responsibilities they tackle, give new teachers a reduced teaching load their first year in order to learn from veteran teachers and forgive up to $20,000 in student loans for recent college graduates.

“I personally like the concept,” said East Union Superintendent Pam Vogel. “I think that we do need to have really highly-qualified, really effective teachers working with teachers who are younger, starting out, new to the profession.”

There are still kinks to work out in the proposal, kinks that raise questions of teachers being out of the classroom to mentor other teachers and how money is being distributed.

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