Iowa currently ranks 26th in the nation when it comes to average teacher pay. The across-the-board cut in state spending that was ordered last October reduced state support of schools, too, so that teacher-pay ranking has probably dropped and may drop more. Mary Jane Cobb is executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, the state teachers’ union.

“What we all understand is the rankings that came out recently that us at 26th in the nation didn’t include any of the cuts that we’re talking about,” Cobb says. “And so I’m concerned that the next round of rankings that are going to come out will show us having slipped.”

According to the National Education Association, the average salary for a K-through-12 teacher in Iowa is 48-thousand dollars a year. Democrats who control the legislature’s debate agenda say schools will get a general increase in state aid, along with a bit more than $100-million to plug some holes in school budgets.

Republicans like Representative Mike May of Spirit Lake — a retired teacher — say that’s not enough. “The comment is constantly made in here that…’Well, those folks at the local level are going to have to make cuts, too. They’re going to have to scrimp and save, just like we have to,'” May says. “…What do you think they’ve been doing over the past several years, over the last two years in particular? Do you think they haven’t been throwing things overboard?”

To critics who say the state isn’t spending enough on schools, Governor Culver says the state’s K-through-12 schools will get more money from the state for the next academic year. “It may be the only area in the whole budget that will get an increase in state funding,” Culver says. “And that shows our commitment to our public schools, to our teachers, to our kids and to our administrators.”

According to Culver, he and Democrats in the legislature have agreed to send more than $2.4 billion to Iowa’s K-through-12 public schools for the next academic year, an increase of about 65 million.