The director of the Iowa Department of Education says the state’s financial constraints will prevent politicians from following through on a three-year-old promise to boost teacher pay. Education department director Ted Stilwell says lawmakers have provided extra money for mentoring programs for beginning teachers and better pay for the rookie teachers, but there’s not much more money for experienced teachers. Stilwell says “it’s pretty hard to be optimistic” about having money to spend on teacher pay given the condition of the state budget. Three years ago, the Governor and the Legislature drafted a new system to improve the teaching profession by tying pay to performance in the classroom. Stilwell says three years ago, policymakers were talking about the need for 300 to 400-million dollars in new state money to plug into the teacher pay system. Stilwell says “timing is everything,” however, and financial conditions have prevented the state from following through. Stilwell says if there is to be a shift to linking pay with performance, there needs to be an infusion of money, too. Stilwell says there’s no chance in the next two years to find the money to build the next tiers of the teacher compensation system. Stilwell says the idea is to shift away from the current system which raises teacher pay incrementally for years in the profession and the number of continuing education credit hours they’ve compiled. Stilwell says what’s needed is a system that increases pay based on professional development that’s been shown to improve teaching skills, and rewards experienced teachers who make “substantial” strides by taking advanced courses proven to improve classroom techniques. He says legislators he’s talked with are committed to maintaining support for the changes that’re already in place today — the higher beginning teacher salaries and the support for mentoring programs for new teachers.
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