Governor Tom Vilsack’s hailing the work product of the 2006 Iowa Legislature.
“I’m really pleased with the work that was done on education,” Vilsack says. “It’s historic. It breaks tradition and I think it’s going to serve the young people of our state and our state well.”
Lawmakers approved a teacher pay package that in the next year sets aside 35 million dollars for raises. It also sets up a system that will eventually link pay with performance in the classrom, and for the first time ever, the state will establish graduation standards for high schoolers. Vilsack says the “more rigorous” graduation requirements make more sense in a global economy. The new graduation standards require four years of English, three years of science, three years of math, and two years of classes to learn another language.
This is the final legislative session Vilsack will preside over as he’s not seeking re-election, and it marks the end of a two-year period when the Iowa Legislature had a House with 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats and a Senate with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. “For those who felt at the beginning of this General Assembly two years ago that this was a lame duck governor and a very evenly-divided legislature that not very much was going to be done, I think we’ve confounded those predictions,” Vilsack says. “I’m proud of the work these folks did.”
But there were priority issues which fell by the wayside, such as an effort to find some way to help small businesses join together to save money buying health insurance for their workers. “I think you’ll see that as a campaign issue,” Vilsack says. He predicts Democrats and Republicans will each outline for voters their own proposals for helping businesses cope with the rising costs of health insurance.
Vilsack was this morning’s opening speaker at an economic development conference in Des Moines. “You are looking at one happy governor,” Vilsack said. “Whenever the legislature leaves, it’s always a good day.”
The legislature concluded its work overnight, with the Senate adjourning at a quarter ’til midnight and the House following at 12:30 this (Thursday) morning. Vilsack went on to say lawmakers had “done themselves proud” with work in key areas, including economic development efforts like a $20 million plan that will help convert ideas developed by students and professors at Iowa, Iowa State and U-N-I into businesses.