It has been two and a-half months since Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad unveiled his new $187 million education reform proposal to the public, and no middle ground has been met yet between Iowa House of Representatives and Iowa Senate on what the final reform will say.
But, according to an April 2 Des Moines Register story, the middle ground will soon be met as House and Senate negotiations take place.
“They’re slowing us down right now in some of our next year’s planning and that type of stuff,” said Roy Stroud, Creston School District Business Manager, of the time the reform has been in talks. “We’re trying to negotiate staff next year for increases in their salaries and that type of stuff. So, not having allowable growth announced, ... we’re certifying a budget based on our best guesstimates at this time.”
Iowa House rebutted Branstad’s proposal with their own amendments.
The original proposal did not have allowable growth decided. Allowable growth is a percentage increase per student that schools use to pay for things such as heat and electricity. The House proposed a 2 percent increase.
Some schools have a career ladder in place already, but the House bill would create a new career ladder for schools, and only schools that opt in and use that ladder get the additional $305 per student that comes with making the change.
The House bill raises the minimum teacher salary from $28,000 to $32,000.
“Obviously we have some very good educators here in the district and this impacts them,” Stroud said. “We just wish they’d put it all together so we could address it.”
Iowa Senate did not adopt the House bill, but came up with their own instead.
The Senate decided on 4 percent allowable growth. The state of Iowa has a 4 percent allowable growth currently set, but has not decided on what to set it at for 2013-14 school year.
The Senate bill allows school districts to keep their current teacher career ladder, choose two new options or come up with a new model. If schools decide to opt in to a career ladder, the district would receive $400 per student in additional funds.
The Senate bill retained Branstad’s proposed salary raise from $28,000 to $35,000.
As stated in the Des Moines Register, “a report by the Legislative Services Agency estimates the cost of the Senate’s legislation at $135 million in the 2014 budget year.” The cost increases to $305 million in 2015 and $190.5 million in 2016.
“We’re just here about kids,” said Stroud. “We’re here for what’s best for students, and I think our staff does a wonderful job with what they have now. And, hopefully, we’ll have more resources to do more for them.”
Main points of Branstad’s original education reform
• Raise Iowa’s teachers’ minimum starting pay from $28,000 to $35,000.
• Pay teachers more alongside the additional responsibilities they take on, including climbing the teacher career ladder and coaching and mentoring new teachers.
• Peer evaluations between teachers. This means the teachers will evaluate each other’s teaching methods in order to improve. Administrators are not allowed to participate.
• Teach Iowa Initiative is an expansion on a program that will provide $4,000 per year relief of college debt to new students who choose to teach in Iowa for five years. This would total $20,000. It would focus on hard-to-hire positions, such as math and science, and would also require college students to have a full year of clinical experience teaching their senior year, rather than one semester.
Education Reform Timeline
Jan. 14: Branstad introduced the education reform bill that would increase the starting teacher’s salary and outline professional development.
Feb. 18: Iowa House of Representatives amended the proposed bill.
Feb. 19: House legislators discussed and amended the bill further. The bill passed with a vote of 52-44.
March 26: Iowa Senate approved a statewide education plan based on Branstad’s reform bill with a vote of 26-23 along party lines.
April 2: Neither the Senate nor the House have picked up the other’s proposed bill. The proposals will be sent to House and Senate negotiators and the revised proposal will be sent to Branstad for his final decision.