Senate Democrats have formally endorsed their own education reform package, giving schools flexibility to choose from a variety of teacher improvement plans.
Governor Branstad’s education reform proposal would provide bonuses to teachers chosen to spend part of the school day coaching other teachers.
“The number on criticism that I’ve heard of the governor’s plan is the fact that it takes great classroom teachers out of the classroom,” said Senator Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa who is a teacher. “…This bill does address that criticism…and it does so by giving multiple options, some flexibility, to our school districts.”
Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, said the bill’s “not very good,” but he doesn’t think the governor’s plan or the education reform plan that cleared the House in February is either.
“Once again, this bill was presented as reform. What does reform mean? It means to change what we’re doing,” Chelgren said. “We haven’t changed what we’re doing.”
Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, said the bill is “on the right track,” but key questions remain unresolved.
“What can we all live with?” Ernst asked. “What can our administrators live with? What can our children live with?”
The bill from Senate Democrats does align with the governor’s call to raise the beginning teacher salary in Iowa to $35,000. House Republicans voted in February to set the starting teacher salary level $3000 lower.
“The purpose of this bill, ultimately, is to help the children of Iowa — the students, the workers, the business leaders, the educators, government leaders of tomorrow,” said Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames who is chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
AUDIO of closing debate on SF 423 (mp3 runs 30 min.)
Quirmbach sparked outrage from Republicans for the way he questioned Senator Amy Sinclair earlier in the evening during debate of proposed amendments to the senate bill.
AUDIO of debate between Sinclair and Quirmbach, discussing Senate Amendment 3082 (mp3 runs 10 minutes)
“I asked her about language that she proposed in her amendment,” Quirmbach told reporters after debate on the bill had concluded. “I wanted to know if she knew what the words meant. She apparently didn’t.”
The Republican Whip in the Iowa Senate issued a written statement late tonight to express “outrage” over Quirmbach’s “tone” and “lack of respect” for Senator Sinclair. Senator Rick Bertrand said Quirmbach seemed to be trying to “belittle” their female colleague by “asking her meaningless questions.”