The following offers highlights of the final legislative action during 2006. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2005 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Gov. Tom Vilsak has signed a fiscal 2007 budget that boosts education spending as part of an effort to help Iowa regain its status as a national leader in student achievement. The legislation was spurred in part by recommendations released in January by the Institute for Tommorow’s Workforce, a nonprofit organization formed by the Iowa legislature last year. The organization’s report noted that the Hawkeye State’s scores on the 4th grade reading section of National Assessment of Educational Progress fell from first in the United States in 1992 to 19th in 2005.
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Under the plan passed by the legislature to help address that gap, state spending for K-12 education will grow to about $2.3 billion in fiscal 2007, an increase of about 5.4 percent over the current fiscal year. The total state budget for 2007 is $5.3 billion.
Much of the new money, about $104 million, will be used to hike teachers’ pay, which has fallen to 41st in the nation from 34th a decade ago. Next year’s increase will raise the average starting salary from $24,500 to $25,500. Lawmakers also approved an additional $35 million increase for teachers in each of the next two fiscal years.
In other action related to teacher pay, the legislature established a panel to make recommendations for a $7.5 million pilot program, scheduled for fiscal years 2008 and 2009, that would base teacher pay partly on student achievement. It also approved $3.4 million in fiscal year 2007 for a so-called market-based pay plan to attract teachers to math and science positions and hard-to-staff districts.
Another $15 million will go toward increasing spending on early-childhood education to about $40 million in fiscal 2007. The new aid includes $3.5 million for an initiative to improve the quality of preschool programs.
The legislature approved a plan to enact Iowa’s first-ever set of statewide graduation requirements, including four years of English and three years each of mathematics, science, and social studies. The standards will go into effect starting with the class of 2011. Lawmakers allowed districts to decide which specific courses would meet the new requirements. (May 17, 2006.)
A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 2006 edition of Education Week