IA Governor Unveils Education Reform Proposal - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

IA Governor Unveils Education Reform Proposal

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A new legislative session kicked off in Iowa Monday, and Governor Terry Branstad outlined his vision for education reform.

Branstad unveiled a proposal that would use $187 million over the next five years.

Much of that plan centers around teacher compensation.

Of course, the big headline coming out of the governor's education reform package is a proposal for increasing the minimum salary for entry-level teachers to $35,000 a year, up from $28,000 a year right now.

On top of that, the plan includes pay bumps for teachers who take on more responsibilities, and a "Teach Iowa Initiative" - tuition assistance and reimbursement for college students who commit to teaching in Iowa for five years after they graduate.

The hope is that all of that will add up to attracting - and keeping - more top-notch teachers in the state's classrooms.

"I think it is very important to attract more teachers to the field because I do believe that our students today are our future," said Scott Community College student Kellie Sharp.

And for this education major, the future looks a little brighter.

Still, Sharp said, for people who are called to the profession - because teaching really is a calling - the money generally is not the deciding factor.

"That never overshadowed the fact that I want to help children," she said.

"Coming from a background as a special education student myself, I really want to teach the special ed students and teach them that they can achieve anything that they set their minds to," she went on to explain.

Sharp said the promise of better compensation when she graduates is just a bonus. But, it may make a much bigger difference for some of her classmates.

"I've talked with a few, and they're just not sure what they want to do. They want to be a teacher, but they want something that pays better," she said.

According to Dr. Tom Carpenter, the Director of the School of Education at St. Ambrose University, that is a common problem for this field:

"You make a lot of financial sacrifices to be a teacher, and if you're in the math and sciences, you look at a lot of other kinds of career alternatives," he said.

Carpenter said the reforms proposed still won't make teaching the most financially attractive job, but they are a move in the right direction.

"These kinds of things will attract the best and the brightest to come and teach in the Iowa schools," he said.

That should translate into better and brighter students coming out of Iowa's classrooms.

Other reforms included in the governor's plan include expanding online education opportunities for high school students, improving the way teacher evaluations are done, and lightening the loads for first-year teachers so they can spend more time learning from the seasoned veterans in their field.

All of this, of course, would require approval by the Legislature.

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