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Viewpoints April 16, 2014

3/27/2013 10:06:00 AM
The Bottom Line

Mike Breitbach
District 28 State Senator

Week 10 was another week full of debate on the Senate floor. We were happy to welcome Senator Tom Courtney back to the chamber. He has recovered from his surgery and has returned to his seat to help us move legislation in order to help the people of Iowa.
Republicans and Democrats have struggled since 2011 to reform Iowa’s education system. In that time, Governor Branstad has proposed legislation raising teacher pay and establishing a mentoring system for teachers, and Senate Democrats and House Republicans have each introduced their own versions of education reform. Each reform plan works to enable Iowa teachers to prepare students for the competitive job market and global marketplace.
Here are some key provisions in the proposed bills:
Online Learning: Both the House Republicans and Governor Branstad agree that the Department of Education should set the fee schedule for public and non-public schools to participate in the Department’s Iowa Online Learning initiative. They both appropriate $1.5 million for FY 2014 to help expand the program. In contrast, Senate Democrats establish the fees and set limits on the cost of administering the program rather than let experts from the Department of Education set parameters.
Teacher Training and Development: All plans emphasize the need for more thorough reviews and teacher mentoring programs.
Teacher Pay: Senate Democrats and Governor Branstad would like to raise starting teacher pay from $28,000 to $35,000. House Republicans would like to raise annual starting salary to $32,000.
The three plans have several similarities, but one difference looms large - the allowable growth rate. The House Republicans’ target for each of the next two years is a 2% increase each year while the Senate Democrats increase the rate to 4% each year for the next two fiscal years.
Education reform is critical to ensure that Iowa students do not graduate high school ill-prepared for college and the workplace. We need to provide incentives for Iowa’s best and brightest to become teachers, give them the support they need to be good teachers, and compensate them well for the important task they undertake daily – preparing our students to compete in a global economy.
The Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) meets at least three times a year and is a key component of the budgetary process in Iowa. The REC is tasked with agreeing upon budget estimates for the current fiscal year for the State of Iowa. Recent REC reports have indicated that revenue in Iowa is up and many involved in the budget process expect this week’s REC report will illustrate the same.
The three-member Conference was established by Iowa Code and is comprised of the Governor or the Governor’s designee, the Director of the Legislative Services Agency or their designee, and a third member agreed upon by the other two members. The Code directs the Governor to use the December REC estimate in establishing his budget. If the REC March estimate is less than the December estimate, the Governor and Legislature are required to use the lower estimate in budget creation. However, if the March estimate is higher or the same as the December estimate, the law requires the Governor and General Assembly to use the original December estimate.

Also, make sure to join me at the Guttenberg Library at 10 a.m. for a forum. Your opinions and input are always valued. As always, you can contact me via email or on Facebook at the State Senator Michael Breitbach page.

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