Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Highlights of education appropriations and other key bills

The following is a brief overview of how major education-related bills fared during the 2008 legislative session.

Community colleges. Funding for community colleges will increase by $9.1 million with an additional $1.5 million allocated for faculty salaries. That's in addition to the $2 million already in effect. Although the figures fell short of what the ISEA had pushed for, the increase is significantly higher than what Gov. Culver had called for in his budget message and will help move us closer to the goal of raising faculty salaries to 25th in the nation. In addition, all faculty must now be included in the quality faculty plans and new committees will be formed at the state level to increase faculty input and create more professional development opportunities.

Funding roll-in. The ISEA won a huge victory will the passage of a bill to roll funding for several key categorical programs into the school foundation aid formula. That means that allocations for teacher compensation, Phase II, professional development, and class size reduction will be better protected from future budget cuts and will be able to keep pace with inflation.

Teacher salaries. The additional $75 million in funding necessary to raise teacher salaries to 25th in the nation is maintained and legislation was approved to ensure that once the additional salary distribution is determined, teachers will be paid in equal installments throughout the year beginning in October. In addition, the market factor pay incentives for shortage areas was eliminated and the allocation for pay-for-performance pilot programs was reduced from $2.5 million to $335,000. The minimum teacher salary will be $28,000 in 2008-09 and the minimum salary for career teachers will be $30,000.

K-12 and AEA funding. Early in the session, the Legislature approved - and Gov. Culver has signed into law -- a 4 percent K-12 allowable growth rate for 2009-10. Lawmakers also restored $2.75 million of the budget reductions for the area education agencies for next year and they indicated their intent to restore the remaining $2.5 million in 2009-10.

ESP salaries. The ISEA was successful in getting the following language included in Chapter 279 of the Iowa Code: "It is the goal of this state that every employee of a public school corporation be provided with a competitive living wage."

Core curriculum. After striking down a provision which would have created new student performance standards and would have forced the state to completely revamp its student assessments, lawmakers approved a bill to require school districts to adopt the model core curriculum. Under the new law, the mandate will be fully implemented by the 2012-13 school year for grades 9 - 12 and during the 2014-15 school year for grades K - 8.

Statewide penny tax. Lawmakers approved a compromise version of a bill which eliminates the local option sales tax and replaces it with a statewide penny tax for school infrastructure and property tax relief. The final bill is an improvement over earlier versions because it provides more equity across the state. It is our hope that the money generated will be used to provide for student needs rather than being diverted solely for property tax relief.

IPERS. ISEA-backed legislation was approved which will allow the IPERS actuary to adjust contribution rates beginning in July of 2011 after the current statutory increase of 2 percent is fully implemented. This change is necessary in order to address fluctuating funding needs. In addition, school districts will be limited in the number of 403b providers it can use but local associations will still have a voice in determining the providers.

ISEA members should take time out to thank Democrats in the House and Democrats in the Senate for their hard work and support for educators and students this session - particularly Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, Senate President Jack Kibbie, Speaker of the House Pat Murphy, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy . Please also thank Senators Bob Dvorsky and Frank Wood and Representatives Jo Oldson and Cindy Winckler who played critical roles in pushing through the appropriations bill at the end of the session.