Republican legislative leaders say they’re not convinced Iowa teacher pay now ranks 41st in the country. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says the just-released National Education Association teacher pay ranking do not reflect the pension and health care benefits Iowa teachers receive. “We have some questions about the figures that were released in the news today regarding the state of teacher pay,” Rants says. “We have members who continually ask (themselves) ‘Where’s the money going that the legislature appropriates?'”
In each of the past two years, general state aid to public K-through-12 schools has increased by four percent, according to Rants, but that hasn’t translated into four percent raises for teachers.
The N-E-A rankings show the average teacher salary in Iowa fell from 38th to 41st in the country for the 2003/2004 school year. Teachers in Illinois are paid 16-thousand dollars more; teacher in Minnesota make eight-thousand more. Rants argues the total pay package Iowa teachers get would compare more favorably with other states if pension and health care benefits are considered. Rants says teachers get “a fantastic” pension, and schools are paying “a lot for health care.”
While House Republican Leader Chuck Gipp acknowledges legislators have never lived up to the amount of money the promised four years ago to boost teacher pay, Gipp suggests schools may be squandering some of the money the state is sending their way. Gipp says legislators put more money into teacher pay and a class-size-reduction plan to hire more teachers for early elementary grades last spring and were told that would bring average Iowa teacher pay up to about 25th in the country.
The Iowa State Education Association — the teacher’s union — says teacher pay rates in Iowa are “an embarrassment” and it’s time for legislators to provide the money they promised to boost teacher salaries. Gipp says in good times and bad, legislators have always made education spending a priority and will do so again in 2006.
Gipp says there will be a lot of other demands for more state spending in all sorts of areas, but the “lion’s share” of new state taxdollars will go to education. I-S-E-A officials say the 41st out of 50 ranking compares the average Iowa teacher salary with the average salary in other states, and is an “apples to apples” comparison which shows Iowa is falling by failing to pay its teachers more.