COUNCIL BLUFFS — Local school administrators are pleased by the Iowa Legislature's work on education issues this year.
On Wednesday, the Iowa House passed a revised version of Gov. Terry Branstad's $187 million education plan.
“Our citizens need to understand that since Iowa was rated first in the country in student achievement in 1992, the gap in per-student funding in Iowa has grown both in percentage and amount,” said Martha Bruckner, superintendent of the Council Bluffs Community School District. “Funding for Iowa students is now almost $1,000 per student below the national average.”
But lawmakers are confident that the bill, which the House passed by a 52-44 vote, will be a start. At full implementation, the bill would invest $157 million in Iowa's education system. It would raise teachers' base salaries from $28,000 to $32,000. The bill also includes additional salary compensation for career pathways that would vary in amount from model teachers to lead teachers.
“I applaud the governor and the Legislature for wanting to have the educational system in Iowa be as good as it possibly can,” said Mark Schweer, superintendent of the Lewis Central Community School District. “I do think that it needs to be a systematic approach, because I don't think you can simply tweak something and make the kind of improvement and impact that is needed in order to get us back to the top.”
Bruckner said the Council Bluffs school district would “welcome the chance to support our teachers in new and innovative roles.”
The bill would provide schools with $145 million to implement the program, which will be provided to districts on a per-pupil basis; create a residency year for new teachers with reduced teaching loads and increased learning opportunities; and provide funding to assist high-needs schools in raising student achievement.
Under the revisions, school districts could choose to opt out of the plan.
Additionally, lawmakers approved an amendment that would provide school districts with a 2 percent increase in allowable growth in both the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years. The amendment also includes an additional $8 million for each of the next two years for local property tax relief. That's less than the 4 percent increases for the next two school years approved by the Senate last week.
The House bill will now go to the Senate, where it meets an uncertain fate.