With the start of a new school year, students of all ages are returning to Iowa classrooms. Some exciting changes await them, as the education reforms we approved during the 2013 session raise standards, improve teaching and encourage innovation.
What can we expect to see at our K-12 schools?
1. Greater investment. After several lean years, basic state aid to local schools was increased by 4 percent this year, and will jump by another 4 percent next year. This is the money our schools use to pay salaries, buy textbooks, gas up the buses and more.
State Senator Steve Sodders
2. Higher standards. Iowa schools will get the support they need to significantly raise student achievement. Iowa has slipped to 15th in nation when it comes to education, according to this year's national Kids County survey. That's a trend we're all eager to turn around.
3. Stronger teaching. We're improving teaching by recruiting, encouraging and rewarding great teachers. Iowa's minimum starting teacher salary will increase from $28,000 to $33,500. In addition, schools will receive more funding if they create "leadership pathways" for teachers who agree to coach others.
4. Personal attention. Young learners will get the one-on-one attention they need to become good readers thanks to smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third-grade.
5. More innovation. Iowa schools will keep exploring new approaches in the teaching of science, technology and math, which are key to giving our state a competitive edge in the world economy.
These education reforms are getting praise from parents, teachers and business leaders alike. According to a recent Iowa Poll, most Iowans think boosting salaries and adding new leadership positions for teachers will have a positive effect on student learning. The Iowa State Education Association believes the changes will benefit students and schools by providing a reliable funding stream to plan for class sizes, course offerings and technology needs.
The Des Moines Business Record called education reform one of the top legislative wins for business this year, and local chambers of commerce have said it will contribute to workforce development and stronger outcomes for students.