Part of the new plan for education — fund the old plan.
“I have never seen a governor, in my time in Iowa, come out with an idea for education that had $185 million behind it,” said Jon Sheldahl, executive director of the Great Prairie Area Education Agency.
Gov. Terry Branstad unveiled the education proposal he submitted to the lawmakers Monday. After meetings with teachers, parents and community members around Iowa, as well as several seminars and town hall events, details of the plan are now available.
The new teacher leadership and compensation system builds on landmark bipartisan legislation in 2001 that created, but never funded, a teacher career ladder.
It will be phased in over several years, and the administration said it gives school districts the flexibility to customize leadership roles to meet their local needs.
“Hopefully, everyone will still have some input,” said Kevin Crall, superintendent of Albia schools.
He said education leadership groups will likely have input as the proposal moves through the Iowa House and Senate. It all depends on details of the bill, which have yet to be analyzed.
The goal, according to a release from the Iowa Department of Education, is to raise the status of the teaching profession and attract and retain talented educators.
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said, “Teachers are the single most important influence on a child’s success inside school, and educators are being asked to do much more to prepare students for our knowledge-driven economy. We must make sure new teachers are ready to rise to that challenge, while also providing more support for teachers already in the classroom.”
The DOE says the centerpieces of the project include:
• Raise Iowa’s minimum starting salary from $28,000 to $35,000 to make teaching more attractive.
• Keep top teachers in front of children, but pay these teacher leaders more to take on more instructional leadership responsibility alongside school administrators, which will strengthen teaching throughout the building. Teachers who are selected for mentor roles will be paid more for sharing their expertise and for working additional days to coach all educators.
• Give new teachers a reduced teaching load their first year so they can spend more time learning from outstanding veteran teachers.
“That would be a significant change for Iowa school districts,” said Sheldahl. “My original response to it was there are a lot of good things in it.”
Both he and Crall said it’s important to remember that the Legislature will likely make changes to the final bill.
Sheldahl said the research indicates teachers need to learn as part of their work day — every day.
“We’ve been trying to do it for an hour and a half, once a month,” Sheldahl said of the professional development days districts have. “This is going to assure that supportive school culture exists, and to me, that’s definitely the bright spot of what they have here.”
But there are questions that may not have been answered yet. For example, if master teachers are pulled out of class in order to coach younger teachers, and younger teachers have a reduced class schedule, won’t Iowa need more teachers?
Maybe. Sheldahl said he saw one group’s figures estimating a thousand more teachers may be needed.
“We all want our teachers to be leaders in our buildings,” said Crall. “ I think everyone agrees we shouldn’t be afraid of education change. It’s just a matter if we are all comfortable with the details of the plan.”
“I don’t know of anybody in education circles in Iowa who doesn’t say we can all do better,” Sheldahl said.
Branstad said in a release through the DOE that other states and nations have made “dramatic, whole-system changes that have pushed their education systems past Iowa’s. Iowa, meanwhile, has slipped from being a top performer” to middle of the pack on national tests.
The investment proposed by Branstad and Reynolds scales up over five years, starting with $14 million in the first year and $187 million at full implementation in five years.
That’s admirable, said Sheldahl. But all that money is tied directly to the new programs. He’s hoping the Legislature and the governor remember those incremental increases every district is paying: gasoline, heat, copier paper.
Signing contracts often means an increase in employee pay, even if it’s just 3 or 4 percent. But that payroll accounts for 80 percent of expenses in some districts.
Sheldahl said what used to be called allowable growth needs an equivalent, something to allow a couple percentage points rise in a school district’s income.
“I think superintendents like that the governor is making education a priority. But they also need a certain amount of incremental funding they can count on. There’s two chunks of money, money that will drive reforms. But there’s also the money that pays the cost of doing business.”
For his part, the governor has said he’ll spend “significant” money to fund his new programs, but is this funding in place of or in addition to allowable growth?
Sheldahl said administrators are wondering the same thing right now. A message from the Courier to the DOE was not returned by press time Monday.
“Right now,” said Crall, “the devil is in the details.”
So far so good, but the ‘devil is in the details’
Part of the new plan for education — fund the old plan.
- Iowa gov. launches teacher leadership program DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Nearly 40 school districts, including Ottumwa and Pella, have been selected to initiate teacher leadership programs next school year as part of Iowa's 2013 education reform plan. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Department of Educ
- Graduate when? OTTUMWA — It's just something to think about: Do we want to hold high school graduation on Fridays? Though students have talked about the idea in the past, this year, the idea was brought to the district by Ottumwa High School Principal Mark Hanson.
- Rivers Hills offering dental students real-world knowledge OTTUMWA — The River Hills Community Health Center is becoming a teaching platform as it welcomes dental students on their clinical rotations. For the first time in Ottumwa, a University of Iowa dental student is gaining real-world knowledge by doing
- Iowa lawmakers consider bill requiring radon tests DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa legislative panel approved a bill Tuesday to require radon testing in schools across the state, though lawmakers made clear that changes would be made to the legislation to address timetables and funding sources for th
- Iowa lags behind other states in AP test scores DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A new report says that Iowa's high school seniors are lagging behind students in other states when it comes to scoring well on Advanced Placement exams. According to a College Board report released Tuesday, 11 percent of Iowa'
- Iowa regents to hire consultant for cutting costs IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Board of Regents is expected to hire a consultant to conduct a wide-ranging review of the state's three public universities to look for ways to cut costs. The regents will meet by telephone Tuesday to hire a management
- Ottumwa's young authors OTTUMWA — Kindergarten is no longer about spending an entire school day playing. On Monday, the Ottumwa school board heard an example-filled report from five kindergarten teachers. Their Kindergarten Literacy Achievement program focused on the writin
- Indian Hills proactive in fight against sexual abuse OTTUMWA — When President Barak Obama formed the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault in late January, colleges and universities began the wait to see what would be required of them. Looking over the policies they already hav
- Schools run short on snow days, adjust schedules COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The first snow day of this brutal winter left teacher Christopher Crabtree almost as tickled as it did his three children, but delight is giving way to dread as school cancellations pile up — a whopping 15 days off so far in his
- Dubuque schools succeeding in new autism effort DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — Ana Cayro Kapparos saw a difference in her son as soon as the fifth-grader with autism started receiving education based upon a specially tailored approach. "Garret started doing better at home. He's definitely calmer," Cayro Kap
- More Education Headlines