Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle promises to ensure more “long-term” and “reliable” funding for Iowa schools — and provide teacher pay hikes. Nussle, however, does not specify how much money he’d set aside for teacher salaries or what new deadlines he’d establish for school funding decisions.
“We must direct more resources out of the state bureaucracy and back into the classroom,” Nussle says. “As a governor, I’ll ensure that Iowa’s funding for elementary, secondary and higher education is more reliable and more predictable. They can’t plan now. I talk to schools all across our state and they say ‘We don’t know from one day, from one month, from one year to another what the resource stream is going to be.'”
Under current state law, the legislature and governor set the level of general state aid to schools one year in advance. Many Republican legislators have complained that’s too far in advance, but Nussle suggests he’d “go further” to provide more advance notice of state funding levels to schools, colleges and universities.
“We all know that long-term planning will enable educators to more efficiently meet their needs and deliver better results,” Nussle says. “This is a much-needed change and a much-needed commitment that only a governor with principled, experienced leadership can accomplish.”
Nussle also promises to “invest in teachers” — and he ridicules his Democratic challenger, former school teacher and coach Chet Culver, who has vowed to move Iowa teacher pay from its current 41st ranking in the country to 25th. “What a goal! I want to be average — that’s what Culver says: I want to be average?” Nussle says. “Iowa’s better than average. Iowa ought to lead the nation when it comes to education.”
The three-year, 210-million dollar teacher pay hike plan proved by the just-concluded 2006 Legislature will raise average teacher pay in Iowa to just 32nd among the 50 states — if other state legislatures do not take action to raise salaries in their own states, so it would take significantly more money to raise Iowa teacher pay to “better than average” as Nussle promises.
Nussle says education will be his top priority and he staged a series of news conference on school grounds around the state today to focus his education promises.
“I think it’s important to talk about issues and not just talk about the other fella,” Nussle said.
Out-going Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack, however, was not spared Nussle’s criticism. Nussle criticized Vilsack for not being “a person of his word” and rejecting a plan that would have linked teacher pay to performance. The 2003/2005 school term is the most recent year for which average Iowa teacher pay has been calculated. The average teacher salary in Iowa that year was 39-thousand-432 dollars.