A committee formed by Governor Tom Vilsack suggests changing the way Iowa teachers are paid and dramatically increasing the base pay for starting teachers. Today, starting teacher pay in Iowa is 23-thousand. The group recommends hiking it to just under 30-thousand dollars a year. Wellmark/Blue Cross Blue Shield C-E-O John Forsythe, the committee’s chairman, says a teacher’s pay should be linked to how well their students learn. Iowa teacher pay significantly lags the national average. The plan Forsythe advanced today calls for linking teacher pay increases to the national average. He says they felt it was important to attract the brightest and best into the profession.The committee also recommends providing significant financial rewards to teachers who acquire special skills. An Iowa business group has recommended increasing teacher pay, too, but suggests a base salary of 25-thousand a year. Governor Vilsack says, together, the two reports focus attention on the critical issue. He calls them the most significant set of proposals submitted in 50 years.Vilsack says he’s optimistic he can sit down with Republican legislators and hammer out a teacher pay plan that incorporates the ideas from today’s Forsythe report and from the Iowa Business Roundtable plan advanced by republican businessman Marvin Pomerantz.House Speaker Brent Siegrist, a Republican from Council Bluffs, was a classroom teacher for 18 years. Siegrist says they’ll look at both plans and try to take the best of both and move forward. He says it’s a complex and detailed process that needs to be done.The plan delivered to the Governor calls for linking teacher pay increases to the national average. Siegrist says that’s a point of contention, but not a stumbling block.The current teachers pay system rewards longevity by tying teacher pay to tenure. Iowa State Education Association president Jolene Franken says the members of her teachers union need not fear the report’s call for tying pay to student performance. She says they’re all in it together for student achievement.Franken, who is a classroom teacher from Denison, earlier this week said there is a critical shortage of teachers in Iowa, partly because pay is so low.
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