Under the Golden Dome, Too – Week Thirteen

Upmeyer UTGD

The green grass, April showers, and sporadic warmer temperatures are an encouraging reminder that spring is in the air! Farmers will soon return to the fields to plant their crops and we will all be able to hang up our winter coats for the next few months.

We were very pleased that the Senate passed the education reform bill back to us last week so we were able to move the bill into conference committee for further discussion.  The bill passed the House on February 20 and was amended by the Senate nearly six weeks later on April 3.  During the conference committee process, we offered what we believe to be a good compromise for our K-12 schools in terms of policy and funding.

The proposal will provide students with the tools they need to be successful in today’s global economy, reward our teachers for their efforts in educating our future workforce, and provide schools with the resources needed in order to make this happen.  The plan saves taxpayer money, allows schools to plan ahead for the long term, and implements policy changes focused on achievement-driven reforms.

Our proposal would keep all of the policy language included in our original reform package intact.  Our bill creates an innovative career pathway system for teachers, including a structure for initial, career, model, and lead teachers.  The plan will provide incentives for teachers in high-need schools.  It also creates a system where the best teachers are being used throughout the building in order to improve instruction and increase student outcomes in the classroom.  This structure will provide continual professional development opportunities, help struggling teachers, and spread best practices throughout each and every school building.  Our proposal will reward teachers that excel in their careers and help teachers that need improvement.

We understand that local school districts know best how to serve their students. By implementing home rule authority, our proposal provides flexibility at the local level.  This provides increased authority and empowerment to our locally-elected school boards, thereby giving parents and community members more input into their children’s education.

In terms of funding, we listened to the feedback from the Senate, and for Fiscal Year 2014, we have offered to fund a two percent allowable growth increase, in addition to a one-time payment equivalent to two percent, for a total of a four percent increase.  We have also committed to a four percent increase in allowable growth for Fiscal Year 2015.

This compromise plan offers flexibility for school districts, accountability from our schools for parents, and protection for taxpayers.  We are hopeful the Senate will take our compromise under serious consideration.  It is time to find a resolution on this issue so our schools can move forward with budget certainty and begin to plan for the new policy reforms.

As always, I appreciate hearing from you!  Please continue to contact me with any feedback at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or 515-281-4618.

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