The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 13, 2012

Higher salaries for beginning teachers urged

Associated Press

CLINTON — An Iowa task force looking at school improvements has released a $150 million proposal that includes raising teacher pay and changing the way teachers move up through the ranks.

The Task Force on Teacher Leadership and Compensation was created last spring by the Legislature. The group, which includes teachers and administrators, released its report Thursday.

Gov. Terry Branstad said he wants to make teacher pay and professionalism a centerpiece of his education proposal to the Legislature in 2013.

The task force’s proposal is aimed at retaining effective veteran teachers while making the profession more appealing to the state’s “best and brightest,” said Jason Glass, the director of the Iowa Department of Education and a member of the 25-member task force.

“The top-performing education systems across the world share components of this plan,” Glass said. “We’ve taken those ideas and weaved them together.”

Key among the recommendations is increasing the minimum starting salary for new teachers in Iowa from $28,000 to $35,000 a year within the next three years, as well as an overall average teaching salary range of $40,000 to $45,000 a year.

The report also recommends a five-tier classification system that begins with initial teachers and moves to career, model, mentor and lead teachers. Base pay and responsibilities go up with each level. Teachers would begin their careers with a residency year that would include intensive supervision and mentoring.

The report also recommends the state offer around $5,000 to $6,000 stipends to teachers who work in hard-to-staff subjects or high-poverty schools.

Most of the initiatives would be financed with “new money” from the state, Glass said.

Branstad’s administration would make the final decision on how to pay for the changes.

Glass said the state’s economy is healthy right now, and “that’s an advantage when thinking how we might implement a system like this.”

Representatives from the governor’s office and the state education department will meet with teachers about the proposal this fall.

Mary Jane Cobb, executive director of the Iowa State Education Association and a member of the task force, said the changes would give teachers “a stronger voice in the direction of their classrooms and their schools.”

State Sen. Brian Schoenjahn, a Democrat from Arlington who chairs the Senate education appropriations subcommittee, said he would support the plan as long as the state commits to pay for all the proposals.