EXCLUSIVE: Branstad’s teacher pay proposal put on hold
Changes to the way Iowa teachers are compensated – once the centerpiece of Gov. Terry Branstad’s education reform blueprint – have been put on hold for at least a year, The Des Moines Register has learned.
While other pieces of the proposal, including new tests for students, will be included in the final draft of recommendations presented to the legislature in January, the proposed four-tier career ladder system is off the table for now, Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education, told The Register today.
Instead, a task force will be formed to study the issue of teacher leadership roles. That group will make recommendations to lawmakers in late 2012 to be considered during the 2013 session with possible implementation the following school year, Glass said.
“We absolutely are not moving away from the principles that are behind that four-tier salary structure,” Glass said. “But we also recognize that it’s a big change from a fiscal standpoint. We think this is a conversation we need to engage in when we’re at the beginning of a two-year budget cycle, so we have all the chips to play with.”
The governor’s teacher pay plan is one the elements of the blueprint that has generated the most comments and criticisms at education reform town hall meetings held across the state this fall, with some union leaders questioning whether the proposed changes skirted collective bargaining laws.
Linda Fandel, special assistant on education with the Governor’s office, said the residents – and lawmakers – needs more time to learn about teacher leadership roles, and craft a pay system that works for Iowans.
“It may take more time to move forward in legislation with the four-tier structure than originally anticipated,” Fandel said. “We have listened to Iowans’ concerns at town hall meetings and elsewhere, and realize we need to better explain how this approach will support great teaching and improve the quality of education for students.”
This is the second idea Iowa education leaders have backed away from since discussions began on overhauling Iowa’s education system. State education officials in September had said they were pushing for the adoption of high school exit exams. After questions and concerns were raised by teachers and others, Iowa education leaders decided to push instead for high school students to pass four end-of-course tests.
The four-tier teacher career ladder has been a key part of the Branstad’s education blueprint.
Education advocates previously estimated that the proposed teacher pay system would cost between $100 million and $200 million to implement. That plan called for increasing the minimum salary for beginning teachers from $28,000 to $40,000. In addition, the plan proposed classifying educators as apprentice, career, mentor or master teachers. It also called for educators demonstrate effectiveness before moving to the next pay grade.
Mary Jane Cobb, executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, said a task force that included teacher input may have a better chance of crafting a pay plan that could earn the support of educators.
“I think anytime that you are going to get the people that are going to be impacted by a change involved in the conversations about the change, it has a better chance of buy-in,” Cobb said. “The concept itself, giving teachers more of a voice and responsibility in what goes on in schools — that’s nothing but positive.”
The task force formed to study issue of teacher pay will be comprised of educators, administrators, state leaders and legislators, Glass said. It will study the governor’s career ladder model as well as other teacher leadership programs in place in the U.S. and abroad.
Tweaks to the proposed plan could include additional paths to pay increases for veteran teachers who want to stay in the classroom, Glass said.
“We haven’t figured out the structure, how it would be priced or how quickly it would be implemented, but I think we’re getting some consensus that creating teacher leadership roles is in Iowa’s future” Glass said. “ … We may be criticized by some people now who may say we’re backing away from this issue, but we’ve said all along that we wanted to generate a conversation, listen to people and then make adaptations.”