DES MOINES - Much of the money in Gov. Terry Branstad's education plan for Iowa would go toward paying bonuses to teachers who take on more responsibilities, the head of the state Department of Education said Monday.
Jason Glass, the Education Department's director, said it will cost the state at least $46 million to give stipends of up to $10,000 annually to senior teachers who take on tasks such as mentoring.
Branstad's plan would also raise the minimum teacher salary from $28,000 to $35,000. That would likely cost about $5.5 million, according to education department estimates. Another $96 million would go directly to districts to be used for teacher expenses related to the proposal.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad speaks during a news conference as Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds looks on during the opening day of the Iowa Legislature, Jan. 14 at the Statehouse in Des Moines.
"Our education system needs solutions that are on par with the challenges we face," Glass said.
Two weeks ago, Branstad released the broad outline of his $187 million, five-year education plan, which would also expand online learning and updating the state's school assessment system.
State lawmakers are currently assessing the proposal, but Branstad has already clashed with the Democrats controlling the state Senate, who want to first set district funding levels. Last year, Branstad could not get legislative approval for an education reform package.
The education department estimates that 8,300 teachers would receive the hikes geared at senior teachers, who would have to apply annually for those roles. The bump to minimum teacher salaries could impact 2,036 new and current teachers.
The money is being distributed on a per student basis, meaning districts with more pupils would get more funding. Glass said that districts already offering base salaries dictated by the law would have more options for the funding.
"Those districts that already have minimum salaries of $35,000. Those districts that already have a mentorship structure in place are going to have a head start on those that don't," Glass said.
State estimates show that the most funding would go to the Des Moines Independent School District, the largest in the state, with roughly 31,000 students in the 2011-2012 school year.
Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, ranking member of the House education committee, said she needed more information on how the money would be distributed.
"I want to make sure it's equal funding so rural districts or some of the districts that are not up to that $35,000 are not spending all their money getting up there and you have other districts that are already at $35,000 - what are they going to do for that money, is that gravy for them?" Steckman asked.
Mary Jane Cobb, executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, which represents about 34,000 teachers, support staff and other educators, also expressed concern that the per-student funding plan might leave some districts short.
"I think in actual practice we're going to have some districts that aren't going to get the money they need to do this very well. I worry about that kind of equal inequity," Cobb said.
She also said the union wants to make sure that the stipends are enough pay to cover the additional responsibilities and extra days of work that come with the leadership roles.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.