By The Gazette Editorial Board
There are some good ideas in recently released recommendations from an educational task force charged with examining teacher compensation.
Increasing starting salaries for teachers, extra pay incentives for hard-to-fill teaching jobs and a five-tier classification system all made the final list of 13 suggestions the task force will send to legislators. A wish-list that would cost an estimated $150 million to grant.
A change to teacher pay schedules won’t be enough by itself to transform education and provide the innovation our schools need. And it won’t help a single student if legislators simply approve pay scale changes without appropriating the money to implement them.
The Task Force on Teacher Leadership and Compensation’s recommendations would create career pathways for model teachers, career teachers, mentor teachers and lead teachers — all with different roles, responsibilities and amounts of classroom time.
Model teachers, for example, would primarily stay in the classroom. Lead teachers would split their time evenly between the classroom and activities such as co-teaching and evaluating other teachers. Schools could benefit from the experience and knowledge of retired teachers by creating an “emeritus” classification similar to the one universities already use.
The committee recommends establishing a new commission on educator leadership and compensation to ensure the new system is consistently implemented, and increasing starting pay for new teachers to $35,000 or more. Task force members say overhauling teacher pay will better attract new teachers, help retain the most effective teachers, encourage professional growth, promote collaboration, reward teacher initiative and competence and strengthen instruction.
The group’s ideas are intriguing, and bumping teacher pay may be justified, but we need more details — especially about how the classification system will directly improve students’ educational experiences — before legislators make any decisions.
And if legislators do decide to overhaul teacher career tracks and pay, they’ll have to put enough money behind the change for full implementation.
Task force members said as much when they wrote in their report: “Iowa has never had a shortage of good ideas designed to improve education. … What we have lacked, however, is consistent funding coupled with fidelity of implementation.”
This is only the beginning — more recommendations are on the way from similar groups tasked with studying other potential areas of reform.
Legislators must consider the whole when deciding which changes have the greatest potential.
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