Iowa Senate education plan: $400 more per student, 4 percent allowable growth

But some Republicans say they want another look at numbers before endorsing plan

School districts would receive an extra $400 per student under an education reform proposal that received a Senate committee’s approval on a party-line vote Thursday.

The Senate version of education reform also calls for a 4 percent increase in allowable growth — also known as basic state aid — each of the next two years.

But Senate Republicans balked at the cost of the 4 percent growth and the $400 per student, saying they wanted to take a harder look at the numbers before signing on.

“Dollars are always important,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames. “It won’t be cheap, but the most costly thing we can do is fail to improve our schools.”

The Senate bill now moves to the floor. The House education reform proposal that passed last month is also waiting to get picked up.

Key differences between the two proposals include:

  • The Senate minimum pay for starting teachers is $35,000; the House minimum pay is $32,000.
  • The Senate bill outlines three mandatory new career ladders for teachers or allows districts to come up with their own; the House bill has one career ladder and makes it optional.
  • The Senate bill provides for 4 percent allowable growth and $400 more per student; the House bill calls for 2 percent allowable growth and roughly $300 per student, but districts get the extra per student allocation only if they adopt a new career ladder.

Republicans unsuccessfully tried to amend the package to do away with seniority and educational achievement as considerations in layoff decisions.

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, who advocates for the dissolution of the Iowa Department of Education, said the bill would “do nothing to improve student performance” because the state ties the hands of teachers with too many regulations.

Quirmbach said the Senate bill contains a provision that requires a committee to determine the number of reports required by the department and make recommendations on which could be eliminated.

Zaun responded with a nod and a smile.

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