Democrats and Republicans are still dickering over education spending. The Republican-led Iowa House last week voted to boost teacher salaries, but Democrats now dispute the G-O-P’s claim that Iowa’s average teacher salary will climb when compared to other states. The House voted to put 22-and-a-half million more into teacher pay, and Representative Bill Dix, a Republican from Shell Rock, says that lump sum, combined with a general increase in state aid to schools, will boost average teacher pay by two-thousand dollars. The National Education Association today ranks average Iowa teacher pay 38th in the nation. Dix says the two-thousand dollar raise would push the state’s ranking to 29th. But critics, like Senator Bob Dvorsky — a Democrat from Coralville, say Dix is using fuzzy math.Dvorsky says Dix is counting on teacher pay to stay the same in other states, which isn’t realistic. He says Dix isn’t factoring in the pay in Iowa’s smallest schools, which are not getting a general increase in overall state aid. And schools face other rising expenses, like utility costs, which may divert that new cash from teacher pay. Governor Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, wants more targeted to teacher salaries. “It’s important and necessary for common ground to be reached on adequate funding for a quality start for our children and a quality education, making sure that we’ve got quality in the classroom,” Vilsack says. Vilsack is optimistic legislators will come to some conclusion soon. “It’s a matter of the legislative leadership getting in a room and recognizing that they need each other to get out of here, so they have to listen to each other,” Vilsack says. The Iowa House is not meeting today, but did bang the gavel at 10 o’clock and immediately adjourn for the day since House members completed their work on the state budget on Friday. The Senate is meeting today, but leaders say they’ll be doing minor bills and some committee work, but apparently no major budget decisions yet.
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