A task force of teachers, principals, administrators, school board representatives and members of the business community met over the last seven months to discuss the potential future for Iowa teachers and education professionals.
"The way the teaching structure is set up, there aren't a lot of ways to move up in your career," Iowa Department of Education Communications Director Staci Hupp said. "Many times, teachers make a choice to either become a principal or administrator, or to leave the profession altogether."
The task force concluded their discussion in a 32-page proposal to present before Iowa legislators in January. Should the proposal pass as it is presented, Iowa's education system will become a national leader.
"It's not the only model of its kind," Hupp said, "but it helps Iowa recruit and maintain great teachers, and it gives opportunities for experienced teachers to advance into new and challenging leadership roles."
In the proposal, teachers will be classified into five categories: initial, career, model, mentor, and lead. The three top categories - model, mentor, and lead - will spend less time working hands-on in the classroom with students, and more time mentoring less-experienced initial and career teachers.
"This system is about honoring the past work of generations of Iowans who built a strong foundation in education," Hupp said.
In addition, the proposal would raise starting wages for first-year teachers to $35,000, allowing the school to get "teachers to an appropriate wage as quickly as possible."
However, should this proposal pass as it was written, it will cost $177.5 million, largely to account for the increased salaries for incoming first-year teachers.
According to this year's budget at Spencer schools, a first-year teacher was salaried at $31,448. There were four first-year teachers hired for this school year, which is the average number of first-year teachers hired at Spencer.
"In the past three years, regular funding for schools has been cut," Spencer Superintendent Terry Hemann said.
Each year, basic costs for education increase at about 4 percent. In past years, the school has received 4 percent in allowable growth to cover these costs. With the decreasing budget, however, allowable growth has diminished. This year, Spencer received 2 percent in allowable growth. Last year, they received nothing. This year, though they haven't heard a specific answer, Hemann expects not to receive any allowable growth.
"Without the allowable growth, we have to pay our expenses with the budget that we have," Hemann said.
In addition, the new proposal will include increased costs above the starting teacher salary. Hemann anticipates, should the proposal be implemented as it was written, he will have to hire more teachers to cover the positions of the experienced teachers who will move into leadership roles.
"With the top three tiers teaching less," he said, "we'll need more staff."
There is the possibility of added funding from the state to cover some of the costs, though there is no guarantee.
Nothing will be implemented until at least January, when the proposal is presented to legislators.
Should the proposal be implemented as it is written, Iowa education will change drastically, and both Hupp and Hemann are optimistic.
"We're really excited about the fact that this has set the example for collaboration and consensus," Hupp said.
"We would love to see teachers make more money," Hemann said. "We just have to do so within the budget we are given."