Next week, the Iowa House is scheduled to debate a bill that would raise teacher pay, setting aside millions more for salaries.
In early March, the Iowa Senate voted to give Iowa teachers an average raise of about $2000 in each of the next two years. "By and large, the House and the Senate are in unanimity on the increase in the pay, getting us to 25th in the country," according to House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy.
But Republicans say the bill does some damage. House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City says school board members are raising concerns that the legislation will "erode" their authority. "This is common with what’s going on this session. The Democrats in the legisalture apparently thought they were running for statewide school board because that’s what they’re doing," Rants says. "They’re passing legislation that takes away school board authority and making all the decisions here in Des Moines."
According to Rants, the bill — as currently drafted — would give teachers in a school district the right to decide when to schedule days off for professional development activities. "They want to take the authority and the ability to make those determinations away from the school board and give it to the teachers," Rants says. "I understand (Democrats) have political debts to pay but when does that debt finally get paid off? I know the school boards don’t have a political action committee, but isn’t it about time that we started listening to our school boards about what this legislation ought to look like?"
Rants also alleges the bill will make it more difficult to get rid of bad teachers. "What does that have to do with raising teacher salaries?" Rants asks. "…If you want to raise teacher salaries, Republicans will be there to help. If you’re going to erode school board authority, you’re going to have resistance to doing that."
The Iowa Senate has already endorsed the teacher pay plan. The bill promises $174 million in new state tax money for Iowa teacher pay over the next two years. That includes a hike in the minimum salary required for beginning teachers.