This morning, Gov. Terry Branstad proposed a five-year, $187 million education reform package that would "bring Iowa closer to its goal of providing a world-class education to all children, no matter where they live."

 

The package, which will be presented for the 2013 legislative session, focuses on better compensating teachers, raising student achievement and preparing students to better compete for jobs in a competitive global economy. 

 

The proposed investment scales up over five years, starting with $14 million in the first year, $72 million in the second year, and $187 million at full implementation in five years.

 

The centerpiece of the education reform package is establishing a new teacher leadership and compensation system, which includes raising Iowa's minimum starting salary from $28,000 to $35,000; giving new teachers a reduced load so they can learn from veteran teachers; and paying top teachers more while also giving them more leadership roles. 

 

The education reform package also includes:

  • Teach Iowa Initiative: Expands an existing program to provide both relief and incentive through tuition reimbursement to top students who commit to teach in Iowa schools for five years, with a focus on hard-to-hire subjects such as math and science. 
  • College- and Career-Ready Seals: Use diploma seals to identify and recognize graduating high school students who demonstrate that they are college- and career-ready. A blue-ribbon commission of business and education leaders would set the standards for the seals, which are in addition to a high school diploma. 
  • Improving educator evaluations: Iowa needs to update existing teacher and administrator evaluations to provide more valuable feedback. This will include deciding how student achievement growth should count. This work should help the state win a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law.
  • Expand the Iowa Learning Online program: This proposal expands an existing program at the Iowa Department of Education to allow more high school students the opportunity to take high-quality online courses taught by Iowa teachers. This will require an initial state investment but would be self-sustaining in three years.