The Iowa House has been holding multiple subcommittees on Governor Terry Branstad’s education reform bill over the last two weeks. The centerpiece of the bill is a significant raise in public school teacher salaries. The proposal also includes measures to encourage teachers to stay in the classroom and sets up a system for quality teachers to mentor others. Although we fully agree that teachers should be paid well, we are concerned that our schools will find it difficult to keep up with the pace of public school increases. Other provisions call for a statewide jobs posting site on the Iowa Department of Education’s website (non-public schools will be optional) and special college & career-ready seals for students’ diplomas upon completion of additional work and assessments (participation is optional). IACS’ concerns from last year have largely been addressed and we are monitoring the bill for any developments that affect your school.
A statewide interest group not privy to most of the education discussion sent out an email earlier this afternoon stating that private school families were not included in this year’s education reform bill. That isn’t entirely accurate and ignores the big picture. Although we are disappointed that universal school choice isn’t the centerpiece of education reform in Iowa right now, we are grateful that Governor Branstad included an increase from $8.75 million to $10.25 million in tax credits for our Educational Opportunity Act (EOA)/School Tuition Organization (STO) tax credit program! There is also a proposed increase to the transportation funding for nonpublic school students in his budget. We are also very pleased that there will be school choice and independent accreditation legislation introduced very soon in the House and Senate. Iowa Association of Christian Schools (IACS), along with the Iowa Catholic Conference and Iowa Advocates for Choice in Education (Iowa ACE) are at the capitol every day working solely on education policy and we are very pleased to report that, given the divided legislature and current state of the education debate in Iowa, we have more momentum on every front than we have had in recent memory. Stay tuned for some exciting updates.
Last week was National School Choice Week (NSCW) and Governor Branstad signed a “School Choice Week” proclamation on Thursday. IACS was represented at the signing ceremony (photo above) and photos are up on our Facebook page. More photos are coming! I was honored to have been invited to participate in Ankeny Christian Academy’s NSCW event last week! Thank you to the ACA staff for inviting us and Iowa ACE to present today!
Finally, join us for Education Celebration 2013 on Wednesday, March 6, in the Iowa State Capitol Building! Visit the Capitol and talk to your legislators about the benefits of school choice programming, like our STO tax credit! The School Choice Rally is at noon on the first-floor rotunda. For more information contact Iowa ACE Executive Director Trish Wilger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-323-0687.