UPDATED: Schools concerned about paying for education reform - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATED: Schools concerned about paying for education reform


Governor Terry Branstad wants changes to the state's schools to make Iowa first in the nation and top 10 in the world for education.  The governor is calling for sweeping reform to the state's education system.  The blueprint sets a three-year timeline for starting 16 different reforms.  But there are still a lot of questions about how the governor's goals will be met.

Students in the Hudson School District are seeing fewer staff members and a couple less programs this year.  That's because the state's zero-percent allowable growth for education funding, coupled with declining enrollment, forced the district to slash more than a half-million dollars from its budget.  And now, as the state looks to a new plan for reshaping the education system to increase student achievement, some districts are left with one big question.

"They're great ideas, but how are we going to pay for them?" said Tony Voss, Hudson Schools superintendent.

Among the education blueprint's proposals is increasing teacher pay, and linking that salary to performance.  Like many districts, Hudson wants to pay its teachers top wages.  But there's just not the extra cash to do that.  And right now, there's little information on how districts would evaluate teachers to determine pay increases.

"That's very, very tricky.  It will really have to be thoughtfully considered based on students you have in your class that year and students you had the year before," Voss said.

Other blueprint ideas might be easier to implement, like requiring literacy tests for all third graders and a test high schoolers would have to take before graduating.

"It's reasonable to expect students to achieve and to achieve at high levels, to see where they're starting, to set a goal, and have that student meet that goal at the end of the school year.  We will just have to be really smart and deliberate about how we do that," said Voss.

The trick there is making sure educators still have wiggle room in their curriculum to encourage creativity, without feeling forced to only teach material students will be tested on later.

Governor Branstad's education blueprint also calls for an innovation fund to encourage schools to address specific problems.  In small districts like Hudson, superintendent Voss says providing incentives for schools to pool resources and offer more classes could be an example.  But again, it remains to be seen how the state will pay for such a program, since the governor has conceded that paying for reform will cost more than the $3.45 billion the state currently spends on schools.

Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds will hold town hall meetings beginning next week to get feedback on the plan, so that a revised version can be presented to Iowa legislators in January.

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