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Ed committee: Boost salaries to attract teachers

BY JANET LAWLER | SEPTEMBER 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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State policymakers are considering boosting beginning salaries for Iowa teachers, a move proponents say would attract better teachers to the state.

The House Committee on Education met Monday members of the governor's administration to discuss a perspective K-12 education plan. Although specifics are solidified, the prospective changes include an increased salary for beginning teachers of $40,000 per year as well as a four-tier teacher ladder.

"The increase of base pay would attract the best and brightest into the education field," said Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, a member of House Education Committee.

Rep. Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia, the chairman of the committee, said the new plan is still in the conception stage.

"This will be a very large bill," he said. "It will provide more options for schooling, including more charter schools, Internet training, and individualized learning."

The committee has been meeting with the Governor's Office, which may release the idea in writing as early as Oct. 3. Forristall said best estimates would have a draft of the bill by the end of November.

"The key goal is not to allow students to get so far behind they can't recover," Forristall said.

Legislators have discussed changes including more testing to better track student progress.

"We've been discussing what reforms should be made to make Iowa schools more competitive and marketable on the international level," Mascher said.

John Bacon, the principal of City High, said now is an important and exciting time for education in Iowa. Iowa schools are able to compete on the international level, he said, and he would put any student up against anyone in the world.

"However, we should continually be striving to improve and do things better as an ongoing process," Bacon said.

The conceptual plan includes a four-tier ladder of teaching beginning first with apprentice teachers with fewer than five years of experience, then career teachers who make up most of the workforce. Next would be mentor teachers, who would spend much of their time mentoring lower-tier teachers. Finally, there would be master-level teachers who would spend half of their time coaching teachers and may be adjunct faculty at universities.

"[The teaching tier] is in place in Iowa Code; it was just never funded," Mascher said. "It's an incentive to go into education and keep them there."

Forristall said advancing teaching levels would rely completely on comparative merit based on competence, not based on how long the teacher has worked.

State leaders also reviewed the possibility of establishing more charter schools and an online learning presence.

"There is no sense in a student wasting time in a rigid classroom when they demonstrated the competence to succeed at a faster rate online," Forristall said.

Although he said it was too early to assign any estimates of financing or possible challenges down the road, he has high hopes for the legislation.

"It has the chance of being the most revolutionary makeovers of any state in the education field," he said.


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