The Iowa House has approved a plan that would forward $175 million more state tax dollars to Iowa’s public schools over the next two years to raise teacher pay.
Representative Cindy Lou Winckler, a Democrat from Davenport, said the bill fulfills the campaign promise legislators made to raise teacher pay. "We promised educators year after year…that we valuabled their expertise and would reward their hard work," Winckler said at the opening of today’s debate. "…We want to keep our best and brightest teachers here in Iowa."
Winckler cites a variety of test results as proof that Iowa’s education system is doing well. "With all this success, it’s time to move from good, to great," Winckler said.
House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City was not entirely pleased with the details, but voted for the bill anyway. "We are raising salaries for teachers and that’s sorely needed. No one disputes that. Both parties campaigned on it," Rant said. "But this piece of legislation is chock-full of bad policy decisions."
Republicans like Rants complained that the fine print in the bill will actually take power away from school boards and make it more difficult to get rid of bad teachers and the GOP said the bill does nothing to improve teacher quality.
Representative Mike May, a Republican from Spirit Lake, said he "reluctantly" voted for the bill. "It’s not so much that we’ll be remembered…for doing anything bad," May said. "It’s just that we won’t be remembered for doing anything at all."
But first-term Representative Art Staed, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids who is a teacher, said it was "unforgiveable" for legislators of the past to let Iowa teacher pay fall to 42nd in the nation. "I wonder — where have you all been?" Staed asked his fellow legislators. "…Instead of the rhetoric, today we’re going to do something that I think is awesome."
Representative Mark Smith, a Democrat from Marshalltown, said it’s about reversing a troubling trend. "During the past few years, we’ve lagged behind as a state in our efforts to provide necessary funding for education," Smith said.
Representative Jodi Tymeson, a Republican from Winterset, said the bill is a disappointment because it doesn’t take steps to improve teacher performance. "It’s unfortunate we didn’t do a better job of putting in a place a process that ensures our master teachers are paid better than the ineffective teachers, but I know there are a lot of good teachers in my district and my ‘yes’ vote today will be for them," Tymeson said during debate.
Despite their objections, most Republicans voted with Democrats on the bill, which passed on a 90-7 vote.
The House made changes in the legislation, which cleared the Iowa Senate earlier this year — including a requirement that applicants for teaching jobs in Iowa undergo background checks. Those changes must now be reviewed by senators.