April 16, 2014

Education reform plan clears House, then Senate en route to governor

Republican Governor Terry Branstad put education reform at the top of his to-do list for legislators and a plan is now on its way to his desk.

The Iowa House and Senate this afternoon approved a compromise that calls for paying talented teachers a bonus to spend time coaching other teachers. It calls for a study of teacher evaluation methods. It would grant new independence for parents who home school their children.

Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, said the most important part of the bill provides an increased in state support for public schools.

“We always want to ask all of our institutions to do more with less, but at some point if all you give them is less, that’s all you’ll get,” Quirmbach told reporters.

Schools will get something akin to a four percent increase in general state aid for the next school year, plus another four percent in the following year. The deal also includes a new, $33,500 minimum salary for Iowa teachers and a doubling of the time student teachers must spend under supervision, leading a classroom, before they graduate from college.

Representative Ron Jorgensen, a Republican from Sioux City, was part of a 10-member committee that struggled for weeks to resolve their differences and he spoke about the deal during House debate today.

“No one said it would be quick and it wasn’t and no one said there would not be disagreement and there was disagreement,” Jorgensen said. “But was it all worth it? Yes, it was.”

Representative Sharon Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City, said there are big faults in the plan, like a failure to ensure there are no more waiting lists for preschool.

“I came to the House to be a voice for education. I came here to be here for those kids and those teachers,” Steckman said. “They need our support. They are not the problem. We are.”

However, Steckman would up voting for the bill. It passed the House on a 95-0 vote, then it passed the Senate by the lopsided margin of 40-10.