Nineteen Iowa school districts splitting more than $45.5 million in grants to boost teacher training are making plans for how the money will be used.

The state’s new Teacher and Paraeducator Registered Apprenticeship Pilot Program is being financed with federal pandemic relief money. In Davenport, superintendent T.J. Schneckloth says the money will be used by the districts’ para-educators to earn enough college credits to become teachers.

“They’re already here, they’re dedicated, they love working with students, and have a passion for this area,” Schneckloth says. “So to have the ability to grow those human beings into teachers is an absolute win, win, win all the way around.”

The state money can also be used by high school students to earn para-educator certificates and associate degrees. “One of the goals of every district is to have the teaching staff look like and represent the students,” he says. “The people who are showing interest in our district for getting their teaching degree, it’s a very diverse group, it does match our population.”

Schneckloth says the application and screening process will begin immediately. The pilot program was recommended by a state task force that looked at ways to encourage more Iowans to pursue careers in education.

The 19 districts are:AHSTW, Burlington, Cedar Falls, Cherokee, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Johnston, Linn-Mar, Marion, Marshalltown, MOC-Floyd Valley, Newton, Oskaloosa, Perry, Sioux City, Storm Lake, Winterset, Waukee.

(By Herb Trix, WVIK, Rock Island)