I have read the Governor's proposed legislation very carefully, twice now (all 65 pages of it). I still don't quite understand. Perhaps someone out there can help me? I truly don't mean to be sarcastic or flip (well, mostly not), but I truly don't understand. You can find a copy at this link, so please read it and let me know what you think. If I have misread or misinterpreted something please let me know.
First some basics. The Governor is proposing an education reform package that when fully implemented will be a $187 Million allocation. For the next fiscal year he proposes a whopping $14 Million in new appropriations for K-12 education. The bill is broken down into five divisions, so let's take a few moments to examine these divisions, shall we?
Division 1-Online Learning Initiative-Fees and Appropriations
This portion of the bill expands opportunities for students to participate in online courses. In this case they are managed by the Department of Education. Unlike the online schools that we battled last year, this holds some promise and could be beneficial to rural school districts who are unable to provide upper level or some specialty courses. There does not appear to be an open enrollment [provision] of students to another school district (this is where part of the opposition occurred last year). It provides resident pupils (and districts) the ability to serve students in their home school using a blended format when other models may not be available or cost effective. The Department of Education will administer the courses and bill local school districts at a rate that is undetermined.
Here is where it gets a little weird for me. The Governor proposes allocating money for this to the Department of Education in the following amounts, and proposes adding 3 new positions to the Department (see page 1, subsection 9, lines 20-33).
- FY beginning July 1, 2013-$1,500,000
- FY beginning July 1, 2014-$1,500,000
- FY beginning July 1, 2015-$1,500,000
Division 2-Training and Employment of Teachers
Okay, so the first idea here is to do a better job of recruiting young people to consider teaching as a career. There is a call for marketing and a public outreach initiative by January of 2014. Line 3 (page 2) of this section tells us that it is subject to an appropriation of sufficient funds by the general assembly. On page 6, line 8 we learn that there is an appropriation of $1,000,000 to the Department of education to develop this program. Oh, and hire 3 people.
Then we get into this online state education job posting system that the Department of Education is going to administer and require all school districts to post job openings on. This idea was floated last year and was a dumb idea then too. We already have online job posting sites. Most school districts in the state subscribe to Iowa Reap (which has a nationwide reach), so this seems like a duplication of service. No wait, I take that back. It doesn't seem like a duplication of services, it is a duplication of services. Furthermore, I can attest to the fact that superintendents aren't sitting around thinking "Gee, if only there were an online state posting system where we could post our jobs with DE oversight! Not only will it require me to do the same thing twice, but it won't serve any useful purpose! Where can I sign up now?"
The section also includes what is referred to as a "Teach Iowa Scholar Program" whereas students entering the teaching profession that meet certain criteria can receive a $4,000 grant. The grant is pursuant to these students becoming teachers and agreeing to work in an Iowa school. It looks like they can receive a maximum amount of $20,000 over five years. Subsection 6 (page 4 lines 17-22) indicates that money will be appropriated to the Department of Education, but it doesn't say how much. This looks an awful lot like an unfunded mandate to me, but doesn't appear to be a local school district obligation?
A proposal is also included to pilot a year long student teaching experience. This is actually an interesting proposal I would like to hear more about! However, I imagine this would significantly alter teacher preparation programs in our colleges and universities, and I am not sure it would all be for the better. On this one, I better defer further comment to my colleagues who administer these programs. And in case you are wondering, on page 6 lines 15 and 16 we learn there is an appropriation of $2,000,000 to the Department of Education. Oh yeah, and hire 2 people.
Division 3-Iowa Promise Diploma Seal Program
The first thing that jumps out at me in this section can be found on page 7, lines 27-32. In this section, it states that the district wide assessments that are used must be the same ones that were used statewide on July 1, 2011, and that the successor assessment must be by the same assessment provider. So let me get this straight, and someone please help me here in case I have it wrong. Does this effectively mean that any test that is adopted needs to be administered by Iowa Testing Programs? So...uh, if I read that right I kind of have a problem.
The next several pages describe the diploma seal program, which is described in the subheading of this column. This, I actually do kind of like and think it could be a good thing for our students. Basically what we are talking about here is putting a seal on high school diplomas of students who have demonstrated they are career or college ready. But again on page 13 (line 35) and page 14 (line 1) we learn that there is another appropriation to the Department of Education to develop the program at a cost of $4,000,000. Oh yeah, and hire 3 people.
Division 4-Teacher and Administrator Development System
This section of the bill outlines and describes proposed changes to the evaluation systems that are currently in place in school districts across Iowa. For more information about the current system of evaluation I would encourage you to take a look at my blog from last week. An important note about this section. Iowa applied for and was denied a waiver from NCLB sanctions last year due largely to issues with our evaluation system. A component that includes student achievement data as part of the evaluation process will likely be necessary if Iowa hopes to get relief from NCLB sanctions. Oh yes, page 21 lines 8 and 9 describe the appropriations, again to the Department of Education:
- FY beginning July 1, 2013-$500,000
- FY beginning July 1, 2014-$3,500,000
And they can hire 3 people.
Division 5-Iowa Teacher Career and Compensation Matters
There has been a lot of discussion about the work of the Teacher Leadership and Compensation Task Force that recently made recommendations to implement a career pathways ladder of compensation for teachers. This section outlines (in broad strokes) the way this would work. The first several pages discuss a funding mechanism that designates money (as a categorical funding stream) for an appropriation titled "teacher leadership supplemental district cost". As a categorical funding stream, the legislation indicates that the money may only be used for the purposes of implementing this model. Several pages are devoted to explaining the calculation methodology that is proposed. A three year ramp up of funding is proposed with allocations as follows (see page 33, lines 16-26):
- FY beginning July 1, 2013-$5,000,000
- FY beginning July 1, 2014-$50,000,000
- FY beginning July 1, 2015-$50,000,000
- FY beginning July 1, 2016-$50,000,000
- FT beginning July 1, 2017-$1,500,000
The majority of this money is proposed as state aide to school districts, although it does provide the Department of Education to, yep you guessed it right, hire more people! (page 34, lines 17-20)
Interestingly, on page 37 lines 12 and 13 the legislation boldly proclaims the new minimum salary for beginning teachers to be $35,000. This is great and I support this, but there is no appropriation included. The allocation previously mentioned above is for the implementation of the career ladders, so-how are we going to make that work. (We are going to talk allowable growth next week.) A sidebar here: there has been no discussion of the ripple effect a boost of $35,000 (on the base pay) will have to the salary schedule.
Now the new, or initial teacher is only going to be responsible for 75% student instruction because the other 25% of the time will be spent for observation and leaning. They will also have a contract that is 5 days longer than career teachers. (page 37, lines 24-30)
The district is also required to designate at least 10% of its teachers as model teachers (page 38, line 21), after meeting the prescribed requirements outlined in the bill that include a "rigorous review process". These folks will receive a minimum of a $2,000 stipend and an additional 5 days on their contract. (page 38, lines 26-31)
Mentor teachers are described in this section as those who, again are subject to review and other criteria (and an identified 10% of the teaching force). These teachers will also have a 75% teaching load, with 25% of their time devoted to mentoring other teachers (page 39, lines 7-10). In this model, the teacher contract is extended by 10 days with a salary stipend of at least $5,000. (page 39, line 20)
Finally we talk about the lead teacher. Again, after being recommended and meeting the prescribed requirements, they have a teaching load of 50%. The other 50% of the time is spent in a variety of teacher leadership assignments, too numerous to mention here. Each school district must designate 5% of teachers as leads, and have their contract extended to 15 days. The lead teacher is eligible for a stipend of up to $10,000. (page 39, lines 34-35; page 40 lines 14-16)
Teachers not described above are referred to as career teachers and thus have no additional stipends. Each role described above is considered a one year assignment and the legislation provides for checks and balances for ensuring high caliber teachers are assigned these roles. My only other question at this point is: What do we do with the students when these teachers are doing other things? Larger class sizes?
I have focused mainly on appropriations for the fiscal year set to begin on July 1, 2013. In cases where it helped to clarify a point or provide additional relevant 'color' to the discussion, appropriations for future years were included. If you kept a tally of appropriations on a sticky note as you read this, you hopefully came up with the same figure that I did: $14 Million.
What I find peculiar about these appropriations is that $9 Million of this appropriation is tied directly to the Department of Education for the development of programs and process that will be implemented in future years. The remaining $5,000,000 is allocated for pilot studies for districts to implement the career ladders, although it appears that approximately 20% of this allocation can be maintained by the Department for administration.
In addition, if you have been tallying along with me, you hopefully found it interesting that with each of the allocations to the Department, it included the addition of personnel. By my calculations, if passed the bill would permit the Department to hire a bunch of new staff. Enough in fact to staff a medium sized elementary school!
This is what I see when I read the legislation, and perhaps I am missing something. If that is the case, I implore you to let me know. Hopefully that is the case! Think about it for a second. We are living in an era where there is a steady drumbeat of calls to shrink the size of our government. In the same breath, we yearn for local control-because as the saying goes 'all politics are local'. But here we go with a proposal that expands a government agency, and in some cases increases government oversight. Is that what we want?
Now for my final thought, because I know this is long and appreciate the fact that you have stuck with me this long. Right now we have no allowable growth. Certainly you have been reading the newspapers and watching the news. School districts are going to start making preparations to lay staff off because we don't know what our budget situation is right now. So if this bill becomes law and our funding issue isn't resolved, we will be letting people go.
Maybe that is okay. From the looks of it the Department of Education is going to be hiring.