Over the past few years, Iowa legislators have spent a lot of time talking about education and listening to parents, kids, teachers, administrators and the people who offer jobs about what is and what isn’t working.  Basically, in spite of the state giving 60% of your taxes to education, it is not cutting the mustard. Over the last 20 years, Iowa has slipped from number 1 to the middle of the pack and our kids are getting out of school without the skills and knowledge they need to be successful.  You can’t point to just one factor that’s caused the change, it is many factors and all of us are responsible in some way or another.  Sometimes you have to find the common ground and go from there.  Because we all believe in helping a young person to success, we have been able to stop the finger pointing and get some things done.
This week, the House took the Governor’s Education Reform bill and changed it to how we want it and sent it to the Senate.  The Senate will take parts they like, change parts they don’t and send it back to us.  At that point, the negotiations to find middle ground begin.  Our state government isn’t deadlocked like the federal government.  We will come to conclusions, because we all believe in the success of a young person. Here are the details of the bill:

Allowable Growth/Supplemental State Aid
The amount of money per child will grow from $6,001 to $6,121 in 2014 and $6,243 in 2015.  $6,001 to $6,121 to $6,243.  That extra per child raise equals $128,000,000 dollars.

Iowa Learning Online
Provides funding to expand Iowa Learning Online offerings.

Teach Iowa Initiative
Tuition Reimbursement  $4,000/year ($20K max) for top students who commit to teach in Iowa for 5 years.
Student Teaching Pilot – Extends student teaching during senior year from one semester to a full year
Jobs Board – Creates a state-wide education job posting system

Iowa Certificate of Distinction Program
Requires development of program to award certificates to graduates who follow specific pathways that can designate students as being college or career ready, depending on the chosen pathway

Educator Development System
Requires annual evaluations of teachers by administrators
Gives DE authority to develop additional teacher standards, outside of those already in statute, that may be adopted by the legislature
Establishes a council to review standards and teacher and administrator performance reviews

Teacher Leadership and Compensation
Optional program, Alternative Plans Can be submitted, 3 year phase-in
Raises base teacher salaries from $28,000 to $32,000
Creates career pathways for teachers
Provides schools with $145 million for the program
Initial Teacher – 0-2 years, formal evaluations annually; Career Teacher –full time in classroom; Model Teacher –full time in classroom, classroom is open to observation by others, contract extended 5 days and $2000 minimum additional salary; Mentor Teacher –75% in the classroom, 25% developing other teachers, contract extended 10 days and $5000 minimum additional salary; Lead Teacher – 50% in the classroom, 50% developing other teachers, contract extended 15 days and $10,000 additional salary
Creates residency year for new teachers with reduced teaching load and increased learning opportunities
Provides funding to assistance high-needs schools in raising student achievement

Competency-Based Education and Extended Learning Time Pilot Project
Requires the Competency-Based Education (CBE) Task Force to develop a plan and timeline for statewide implementation of CBE
Establishes a pilot project that will raise student achievement for students in low-performing schools through extended learning opportunities

Home School and Private School Provisions
Allows Private Schools to be accredited by an approved accrediting agency, instead of the state
Gave Home School families the freedom of school without state interference
Provided families looking for home school opportunities the ability to work with other home schooling parents to teach their children outside of a traditional school setting.
Allows home schooling parents to teach driver’s education to their children through an approved curriculum, meeting even stricter standards than in a traditional public driver’s ed course

Home Rule For School Districts
Gave local school boards more control by establishing Home Rule

When the bill comes back from the Senate, I will let you know how it changes.  If you have any questions or problems, you can contact me by phone at 515-281-3221 or 515-281-6879. You may also reach me by e-mail at dawn.pettengill@legis.iowa.gov. Stay warm!