August 20, 2014

Branstad insists on education reforms first, money decisions later

Governor Terry Branstad says lawmakers must first pass an education reform bill before he’ll consider how much money to spend on K-12 public schools.

“Back in 1992, when we led the nation on student achievement, 37 percent of our General Fund budget was going to pre-K-12 education. It’s now up to 43 percent and we’ve dropped from 1st in the nation to 25th, so obviously just spending more money is not the answer,” Branstad says. “We need to reform the system.”

Democrats say schools have been waiting since last February for lawmakers to set the level of general state aid for the school year that begins this July 1. Yesterday, Senate Democrats said by the end of January they’d vote to boost general state aid to schools by $135 million. Branstad, a Republican, says the “top priority” for legislators should be making changes in the way teachers are compensated and evaluated.

“Once that’s accomplished, we’re then willing to work with them on the issue of providing them more state aid for schools, in addition to what they do in the education reform,” Branstad says, “but I think reform needs to be the priority and the history of the legislature is they’ll spend all their time fighting over money instead of passing the substantive education reform policies that we need.”

Branstad has called for raising beginning teacher pay to 35-thousand dollars as well as higher pay for veteran teachers who take on more responsibility within their school. Branstad also is recommending changes in teacher and administrator evaluations, to ensure the performance of students is a major consideration. Branstad made his comments this morning during taping of the “Iowa Press” program which airs tonight on Iowa Public Television.