Future Teachers Talk About New Education Reform Plan

By Addison Speck, Reporter

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Gov. Terry Branstad released details of a new education reform package on Monday. The plain aims to attract the best and brightest, giving students another reason to want to pursue a teaching career and teach in Iowa.

The plan would cost $187 million over the next five years. It would raise the minimum pay for entry level teachers from $28 thousand to $35 thousand. It also calls for expanding the existing "Teach Iowa Initiative". It's a program that provides tuition grants to eligible college graduates who commit to teaching hard-to-hire subjects, like math and science, in Iowa for five years.

Math and Science are two areas where the UNI's College of Education typically sees shortages. "If we want more math and science teachers, than I think offering some incentives is a good idea," said Dr. Dwight C. Watson, the University of Northern Iowa's College of Education Dean.

Stephanie Hogan, an aspiring science teacher, thinks the plan would encourage more students to pursue teaching and subjects like math and science. "They are very important. Maybe if teachers get more financial help for going in to those fields, there will be more interest in it," she said.

The starting salary jump was one both Watson and Hogan agreed is needed to raise teacher's market value. "If someone can start out with a bachelor's degree in science and make $50 thousand as opposed to $28 thousand as a science teacher, well someone who has an interest in science might be more likely to go after a hard science field," said Watson.

He added that while most students decide to teach because that's where their heart is, or because they love children, they still have to pay their bills. "Anything that is going to help those motivated to teach, I think is wonderful," he said. Watson believes UNI has some of the best, brightest, and highly motivated aspiring teachers, he said an increase in starting salary could help encourage others who would make great teachers to enter the field.

Robert Nelson, an aspiring elementary teacher, said he hears from people all the time that salary pushed them away from teaching. "I think an increase will be more of an incentive for the kids considering becoming teachers," he said.

The plan also calls to allow teachers to move up on a tier system. It's a part of the plan that Watson also likes. It would keep top teachers in front of children, but pay them more to take on instructional roles and responsibilities alongside school administrators. There will be several levels to this type of position, so pay would be based on expertise and additional work. Watson said it would allow great teachers to still move up in position and pay without leaving the classroom.

These are just a few of several parts to the proposed education reform package that will be discussed this legislative session. Nelson said he wants to see lawmakers continue to ask questions to educators as they write out the details. "They need to talk to teachers that have taught and the people that actually know what is going on in the classroom," he said.
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