2013 Iowa Legislative Session: Education, Budget Surplus - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

2013 Iowa Legislative Session: Education, Budget Surplus

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The 2013 Iowa Legislative session began Monday with lawmakers looking at changes in education and a reduction in commercial property taxes on the agenda. 

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad unveiled a proposal to improve education, for the second year in a row. Similar to last year, his plan focuses on building up teachers as a way to improve student learning. The $187 million plan is aimed at bringing Iowa back to the top when it comes to national test scores.

To do that, a special task force, recommended improving compensation and promoting teacher leadership in the following ways:

· Raise Iowa's minimum starting salary from $28,000 to $35,000 to make teaching more attractive.

· Keep top teachers in front of children, but pay these teacher leaders more to take on more instructional leadership responsibility alongside school administrators, which will strengthen teaching throughout the building. Teachers who are selected for model, mentor and lead roles will be paid more for sharing their expertise and for working additional days to coach, co-teach and to foster collaboration among all educators.

· Give brand-new teachers a reduced teaching load in their first year so they can spend more time learning from outstanding veteran teachers. The teacher leadership and compensation system, which will be phased in over several years, gives school districts the flexibility to customize leadership roles to meet their local needs. It builds on landmark, bipartisan legislation in 2001 that created, but never funded, a teacher career ladder.

The package also includes tuition incentives to teach in Iowa schools and allow student teaching for a full year, rather than the typical one semester. The plan also includes expanding online learning to help smaller school districts with limited resources.

Branstad's other goals include adding 200,000 new jobs, increase family incomes by 25-percent and reduce the cost of government by 15-percent.

The state has a nearly $1 billion budget surplus, making it easier for lawmakers to fund programs.