Republicans in the Iowa House are scaling back Governor Terry Branstad’s education reform plan, making it optional rather than mandatory. Representative Ron Jorgensen, a Republican from Sioux City, is chairman of the House Education Committee. “I’m hoping that all of them will opt in to the program, but…some of them may be just leery of change and whether this will work or not,” Jorsensen says, “and so they may delay coming in until they see how effective it is for others.”
Branstad has proposed a “teacher leadership” plan for schools that would give bonuses to teachers chosen to serve as mentors and coaches for other teachers in their school. Branstad’s also called for raising the beginning teacher salary to 35-thousand dollars, but House Republicans favor a lower level and plan to make raising beginning teacher pay optional, too. Linda Fandel is a senior advisor to Governor Branstad on education issues. “The teacher career pathways provide such an attractive opportunity for school districts, you know, both the teacher leadership that they put in place, and the additional funding that comes with it, that school districts will want to do this,” Fandel says.
Jorgensen — a former school board member — says it’s about giving local school officials more control. “We want to encourage everyone to come in,” Jorgensen says, “but I’d rather not mandate that they do something that they might feel that they’ve got a better system where they’re at right now.” House Republicans have settled on an optional, 32-thousand dollar beginning teacher salary. “Percentage-wise it’s still pretty good growth,” Jorgensen says. “From $28,000 to $32,000 — so we’re still going up $4000 in salary.” But that’s a far cry from the 45-thousand dollar starting teacher salary a state task force called for this past fall.
Representative Sharon Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City who is a retired teacher, says the G-O-P changes are disappointing. “It’s kind of obvious to me that this really isn’t a huge priority for them,” Steckman says. “…They cut a lot of the funding. They made it so it’s not mandatory.” Fandel, the governor’s education advisor, says a lot of schools already offer more than 35-thousand dollars as a starting salary for new teachers. “I think there’ll be a lot of conversation about what’s the right starting salary,” Fandel says. House Republican leaders hope to schedule debate of education reform in the full, 100-member House next week.