Republicans and Democrats in the Senate agree they should millions next year to raise teacher pay, but the two parties are feuding over exactly how much to spend and whether to tie pay raises to performance. Iowa teacher salaries rank 41st in the nation, and Senate Co-Leader Michael Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, says Republican propose a “whole new layer” of bureaucracy with their plan to evaluate teachers and tie pay for classroom performance. “
The thing that we want some cooperation on is reforms,” says Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, a Republican from Ankeny. “The people of Iowa understand that we need to reform this education system beyond just putting more resources into it.” But Gronstal says the Republican-led legislature promised in 2001 to boost teacher pay and set up a merit-based system for raises, then failed in each of the following years to provide money to it. Gronstal suggests there’ll be no follow-through this year, either. “A new set of requirements and promises that maybe some day they’ll come up with the dollars for teacher quality,” Gronstal says.
Senate Co-Leader Stewart Iverson, a Republican from Clarion, says Republicans will only go along with more money for teacher pay if the raises are tied to performance. “I understand teachers say ‘Well, I can’t always control who’s in my classroom.’ That’s not what we’re talking about,” Iverson says. “When a group of students come into a classroom, boom, we have a baseline test and then at the end of the year…we can measure how far those students have progressed.”
Governor Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, has called for 30-million dollars next year in additional state spending on teacher pay. House Republicans had no money for teacher pay increases in the budget plan they released last week.