Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Teacher Leadership and Compensation

I have the opportunity to participate in a variety of professional organizations as a result of my role as Superintendent. One such group is the School Executives of Iowa, which is a branch of the School Administrators of Iowa. The Executive group meets about four times a year with the primary goal of reviewing pending legislation and developing position statements as to whether or not we support legislation, support legislation with caveats, or are opposed to legislation. Those position statements are forwarded to the legislature and Governor, finally becoming talking points from which we are able to engage our elected officials. 

This last week we had an opportunity to review the recommendations of the Teacher Leadership and Compensation Task Force, and are now in the process of preparing a white paper with an official position from the school executives of Iowa. I am not going to go into all the recommendations and rate them with a thumbs up or thumbs down, but will rather provide some comments in broad terms. You can check out the proposed recommendations here. When the white paper is complete I will be sure to share that with you.

The task force was a directive of the General Assembly and was given the directive to evaluate the way in which teachers are compensated and make recommendations to improve upon this system. It was also a goal to find ways in which to increase wages of teachers and to develop a mechanism to increase the average salary of teachers who take on leadership roles. Twenty-Five stakeholders representing a cross section of professional educators including teachers, principals, superintendents, education associations, school boards, the Department of Education, and higher education. Early on it was decided that only recommendations that were reached through consensus would be included in the final report. This in an of itself is worthy of note: everything that was included in the recommendation was supported in principle by the task force.

If adopted, the recommendations have the ability to completely transform how teachers in Iowa have been compensated. Currently Iowa teachers are compensated based on the number of years they have been in the system and the level of education they have received. This new system proposes to radically change the structure, classifying teachers as initial, career, model, mentor, and lead. Again I encourage you to read the report yourself.

In essence, the executive leaders of Iowa will endorse this plan with caveats. The biggest question mark right now is the cost. Depending on which model you look at, the cost of increasing the base salary of entry level teachers to $35,000 and implementing the proposals is well north of $100 Million--as a conservative estimate. During the past three years cuts to education in Iowa have been deep. This makes it hard for me to believe that this is something that will actually be funded. One of the recommendations explicitly states a need for a new infusion of revenue into this system. It also calls for an evaluation of existing allocations to see if they may be 'repurposed'. This concerns me--and it should you too. Last year when the idea of re-purposing was brought up, the early childhood block grant was under scrutiny. This is the money that we used to reduce class size. Although our class sizes aren't small by any stretch of the imagination, think of what they would be without this appropriation. In regard to properly funding this proposal and education in general, there does appear to be some good news. Current estimates suggest an ending fund balance on June 30th of $1 Billion.

Whether or not our political leaders choose to invest in Iowa's future is another question entirely.

So the bottom line in all this discussion is that nothing really matters if our political leaders can't set aside their differences and work for the common good. Depending on when you read this--if online before the election or in the newspaper after the election; we can all agree that the advertisements that we have been subjected to were over the top. Since the dust has settled (or about to), hopefully we can get back to the business of the people.

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