DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday he wants to boost starting salaries for teachers as part of his newly released education plan, but his stance on school funding may run into resistance.
Just before the 85th session of the Iowa Legislature was sworn in, Branstad unveiled his plan to invest $187 million over five years in K-12 education. The proposal calls for, among other things, increasing minimum pay for entry-level teachers from $28,000 to $35,000 annually and offering tuition assistance to aspiring teachers.
Branstad said the plan would be funded with Iowa's nearly $1 billion budget surplus.
"This administration is ready to invest significant new resources in transformational reform," said Branstad, who is expected to announce plans to cut commercial property taxes when he releases his full budget Tuesday.
In past years, the Republican governor has had difficulty in winning legislative support for an education plan, but has signaled that he plans to collaborate more with lawmakers this time around.
"This is refined and more focused. We have now got a much greater consensus from education leaders, but also from the business community," Branstad said.
His administration also hopes that an influx of new House and Senate members and the proposed use of surplus funds will improve the chances that his initiatives will succeed.
But Branstad wants to win legislative approval for the education proposal before determining the general level of state financial support for public schools.
That doesn't sit well with Senate Democrats.
"I think you have to obey the current law as long as it is the current law," said Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames. He said school districts are "operating in a fog because they don't have any idea what resources they're going to have."
The head of the state's largest teacher union, the Iowa State Education Association, did not take a position on the plan immediately. Tammy Wawro released a statement saying the organization will study the proposal.