DES MOINES | After making several changes to Gov. Terry Branstad's education reform package, the Iowa House on Wednesday pushed a $157 million plan to the Senate.
The Republican-controlled House voted 52-44 along party lines on changes that included setting allowable growth at 2 percent and making proposed teacher career ladders optional. Branstad's bill was silent on allowable growth and made career ladders mandatory.
Branstad is on an economic development trip in California, but his office issued a statement in which he praised the move.
The vote capped off two days of floor debate in the House that began at 6:28 p.m. Tuesday, recessed shortly before midnight and resumed at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. The final vote was taken at 8:54 a.m.
"I feel great about what we are about to accomplish," said state Rep. Ron Jorgensen, R-Sioux City, chairman of the House Education Committee and floor manager of the bill. "We are making a significant investment in education that will help move Iowa back to leading the country again in education."
Arguably the key amendment was for 2 percent allowable growth in the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. Allowable growth is the state-calculated formula that determines the state's per-pupil funding.
Democrats attempted to get Republicans to raise allowable growth to 4 percent. That amount would match what the Democrat-controlled Senate previously passed this year. Branstad has said the Legislature should approve education reform before it moves on allowable growth.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton Superintendent Rod Earleywine said he will look for the Senate to push for more allowable growth now that it has the bill.
“I am not crazy about 2 percent, I think it needs to be 4 percent," he said. “We will see what the Senate does.”
Sioux City school Superintendent Paul Gausman said he is pleased the House passed allowable growth and education reform at the same time.
Many schools wanted funding addressed earlier since they are drafting budgets for the 2013-2014 school year. Budgets must be submitted to the state by April 15 even if districts don't know how much state funding they will get.
The House bill dangles the promise of increased per-student funding of roughly $300 to any school district that adopts new base pay and teacher career ladders called for in the bill.
Gausman said he expects most districts will adopt the optional provisions.
“Schools that don’t implement those programs would also not get added funding of about $314 per student,” he said. “I personally believe most districts will participate because of that.”
Gausman will recommend that his district adopt the optional provisions if the Senate also passes them.
Starting pay for Sioux City teachers is already about $36,000, higher than the minimum of $32,000 in the House bill.
Sioux City also already has portions of the professional development program in place and would need to make minor adjustments to meet state requirements. One of the biggest changes would be adding more workdays to teachers who assume leadership roles.
“I think these are good changes,” Gausman said.
Earleywine agreed up to a point.
“I do think most schools will get involved, but if we are saying these are great ideas, we should say these are mandated and get it done,” he said.