Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack visited a school this morning to send a message to Republican legislators. Vilsack visited the Norwalk elementary school which is using state money to build 19 new classrooms, and which has a new teacher mentoring program up and running — one of the components of this past year’s initiative to improve teacher pay and performance. A key republican legislator has suggested the state can’t afford to increase teacher pay, but Vilsack pledges to fight to expand the teacher pay package by “several” million. Vilsack says “there are some who want to take a step back,” by questioning the money already put into increasing teacher salaries. Vilsack says a recent test showed the math skills of Iowa fourth graders are improving. And some state gambling taxes are being used to finance construction of new classrooms. He says the state is beginning to see progress and people are excited about educational opportunities. Vilsack says the state can deal with the budget situation without rolling back the increases in money spent on education.Vilsack will recommend spending 30-million dollars to hire new teachers to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through 4th grade — the same level of funding as this year, but he says he’s not yet ready to say how much more he’ll recommend spending on the plan to raise teacher pay.
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