Mary Stegmeir of The Des Moines Register reported yesterday that Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s education blueprint centerpiece, the teacher pay proposal, was being put on hold for another year.  She wrote:

Instead, a task force will be formed to study the issue of teacher leadership roles. That group will make recommendations to lawmakers in late 2012 to be considered during the 2013 session with possible implementation the following school year, Glass said.

“We absolutely are not moving away from the principles that are behind that four-tier salary structure,” Glass said. “But we also recognize that it’s a big change from a fiscal standpoint. We think this is a conversation we need to engage in when we’re at the beginning of a two-year budget cycle, so we have all the chips to play with.”

The governor’s teacher pay plan is one the elements of the blueprint that has generated the most comments and criticisms at education reform town hall meetings held across the state this fall, with some union leaders questioning whether the proposed changes skirted collective bargaining laws.

Linda Fandel, special assistant on education with the Governor’s office, said the residents – and lawmakers – needs more time to learn about teacher leadership roles, and craft a pay system that works for Iowans.

The teacher pay plan was one of the items we looked at when Eric Goranson, Bill Gustoff, and I graded the blueprint.  We said:

Although everyone agrees that all education boils down to the teacher’s ability to connect with and educate kids, we have reservations about a one-size-fits-all pay scale. We are concerned that it will further burden the state budget.We believe it further erodes local control because it allows for no variance or flexibility regardless of differences in cost of living between urban and rural settings. It also lacks evidence of efficacy. We cannot find compelling evidence that teacher pay, in and of itself, increases a single child’s test scores or overall academic achievement. Simply taking more money from taxpayers to pay teachers more without knowing that other reforms and increased choice will follow is an irresponsible diversion of public funds.

I’m happy that the Administration is taking some time to study this further and hope that they would do this with a variety of elements within the blueprint.  With this particular area of the blueprint perhaps they will allow for local school board feedback and scrap the “one-size-fits-all” model.  I have said that I agreed with Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass that the “step and level” pay system needs to go and that a merit based system should be implemented.  What the blueprint suggested missed the mark.

Something we should watch and take note of is who will be invited to take part on the task force they will create to study this issue.  Will they just invite those who favor centralization?  Will they be in league with the teachers’ unions?  Who they ask to participate will be instructive in know what kinds of proposals they really are willing to accept.

This is a good step, but changing up the pay proposal alone, however, won’t raise the grade for the overall blueprint.

Originally posted at Truth in American Education

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