In his first budget address last week, Iowa Gov. Chet Culver called for nearly $190 million in new spending on education in fiscal 2008, including $20 million more for pre-K programs and a $70 million boost to teacher salaries, the largest single increase in the state’s history.
“This unprecedented investment in teacher pay will allow us to recruit and retain the best teachers, close the gap in teacher pay between urban and rural school districts, ensure quality teaching, and most importantly, show our classroom teachers the respect they deserve for the important work they do every day,” said Gov. Culver, a Democrat, in his speech to the legislature Jan. 30.
A former high school government and history teacher himself, Mr. Culver said the extra funding would bring the state closer to his goal of ranking 25th in the nation in teacher pay. Iowa teacher’s salaries, which averaged just over $40,800 in the 2005-06 school year, rank among the lowest in the country.
He asked lawmakers to increase appropriations for state universities by $25 million and community college spending by $12.5 million to help those institutions expand course offerings and provide tuition relief.
Gov. Culver also proposed creating a new, $5 million college-scholarship program, called the All-Iowa Opportunity Scholarship, to be allocated on financial need. It would provide up to $2,500 in tuition at an Iowa community college or up to $5,000 for the freshman year at public universities in the state.
The governor called on lawmakers to establish a “Senior Year Plus” program, which would allow high school students to earn up to a year of college credit before they graduate from high school.
He said the increase in pre-K spending would help the state reach the goal of offering prekindergarten for all 4-year-olds.
A version of this article appeared in the February 07, 2007 edition of Education Week