Republicans in the Iowa Senate say they’re willing to commit 150-million dollars over the next five years to boost Iowa teacher salaries, but there are conditions. Senator Paul McKinley, a Republican from Chariton, says pay raises should be based on the teacher’s performance, how well he or she is getting students prepared for the world of work. “We recognize that our students in order to compete in the global marketplace have to show greater achievement,” McKinley says.

There’s been “slippage” in student performance in Iowa schools over the past 13 years, according to McKinley, and it’s time to reverse that trend. “We must reward the best and the brightest teachers so we have designed a pay-for-performance program which will reward teachers based upon increasing student achievement,” McKinley says.

A bipartisan group called the Institute for Tomorrow’s Workforce has issued a report calling on lawmakers to significantly increase teacher pay, and McKinley says their report is part of the momentum behind the G-O-P teacher pay plan. “We have looked at the Institute for Tomorrow’s Workforce. They are saying we must focus on (teacher) performance. The governor’s saying we must focus on performance. Iowans are saying we must focus on performance,” McKinley says. “(Senate Republicans) agree with them and this dynamic will do that.”

House Republicans, however, have developed a state spending plan that includes no new money for teacher pay increases. The Senate Republicans propose a state commission that will devise the scoring and rules for determining teacher pay hikes, and in the first year just 10 school districts would experiment with performance-based pay raises. In year five, all 30-million dollars in state money for teacher pay raises would be doled out based on the teacher’s performance. “We have to look at those people who are performing and pay the best and brightest,” McKinley says. “It can’t just be on tenure or longevity or credentials.”

The Iowa State Education Association — the state teacher’s union — has argued that the atmosphere among teachers in a school will be poisoned by a performance-based pay system and administrators will hand out pay raises based on which teachers they like best.

McKinley says teachers won’t be competing against one another, they’ll be competing against themselves, trying to get all the students in their classroom to make at least a one-year gain in courses like reading, math and others. “It’ll be a lot of work, but I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for Iowa to be a leader in the nation in both teacher pay and ingenuity in how we approach the subject,” McKinley says.

Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack has made raising teacher pay a priority this year, and recommended the 30-million dollar spending level Republicans in the Senate now embrace.