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Capitol Commentary

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

This week, I received a lot of communication from back home: some personal visits, emails and phone calls. I appreciate hearing from you and getting your input on the variety of issues facing the legislature. The legislature will work on a number of issues this session, but the two biggest issues this session will be taxes and education.


Rep. Megan Hess
The first bills introduced during a legislative session are typically reserved to set the agenda of the majority party.

House File 1 (HF 1) relates to the Taxpayers' Trust Fund. Created in 2011, the Taxpayers' Trust Fund gathers a portion of the ending balance and sets it aside to be returned to the taxpayers. In FY 2012, the Fund received $60 million and will likely receive another $60 million at the end of FY13. The bill creates the Iowa Taxpayers' Trust Fund tax credit to allow the overpayment of taxes to be sent back to Iowans in the form of tax relief. HF 1 also removes the current cap that is put on Taxpayers' Trust Fund and allows the entire $800 million ending balance to be put into the fund.

HF 2 is a property tax relief bill. It provides relief to all taxes of classes of property by increasing the state aid portion of the school foundation formula from 87.5 to 100 percent over five years. This results in $410 million in property tax relief.

HF 3 relates to income taxes. It sets up a system so that Iowans have an option when paying their income taxes -- they can pay under the current system or a 4.5 percent flat tax with no deductions.


Governor Branstad's education proposal has five components.

The first component revamps the way in which teachers are paid. Over the course of three years, the Governor proposes to raise base teacher salary from $28,000 to $35,000 and establishes six career pathways for teachers. Those with 0-2 years of teaching experience are called "Initial Teachers" and are formally evaluated annually. "Career Teachers" are teachers who are in the classroom full time. "Model Teachers" are full-time in the classroom, whose classroom is open to observation by others and have an extended contract by five days with an additional $2,000 minimum additional salary. "Mentor Teachers" spend 75 percent of their time in the classroom, 25 percent developing other teachers, have a ten-day contract extension with a $5,000 minimum additional salary. "Lead Teachers" spend 50 percent of their time in the classroom, 50 percent developing other teachers, a contract extension of 15 days with a $10,000 additional salary. Emeritus teachers are retired teachers, who don't work full and do not have their own class, but fill in as needed. The first component of his plan also creates a year-long residency for new teachers with a reduced teaching load and increased learning opportunities. It also proposes incentives for teachers to teach in high-needs schools.

The second element of the Governor's proposal is the Teach Iowa initiative. This provides for a $4,000/year ($20,000 max) for top students who commit to teach in Iowa for five years. There is also a provision to give priority in tuition reimbursement for teachers in hard-to-hire subjects like science, technology, engineering and math. The second component of the proposal extends student teaching during a prospective-teachers senior year of college from one semester to a full year. The proposal creates a statewide education job posting system.

The third element of Governor Branstad's proposal creates the Iowa Promise Diploma Seal. If passed, this would create an optional diploma seal that designates a high school graduate as career or college-ready. The goal of this is to provide automatic college entry or hiring preferences at participating businesses.

Governor Branstad's fourth education proposal is the Educator Development System. This updates teacher and administrator standards and evaluations. It also gives the Department of Education the authority to develop and implement an evaluation framework that uses three different performance levels and factors in student outcomes.

The final element deals with Iowa Learning Online. This proposal opens up the current Iowa Learning Online program to more students. The program offers online classes to students in Iowa. This "blended learning" opportunity allows a student to take some courses online while completing the rest of the coursework in a typical classroom setting.

The legislative website is a great way to see what is all going on in the legislature. The web address is: www.legis.iowa.gov Here you can watch session live, see the bills I have sponsored/co-sponsored, and monitor committee activities.

I write a newsletter with updates on the legislative session. If you would like to receive updates, please email me at megan.hess@legis.iowa.gov and I will be sure to get you on the list.

Please feel free to contact me anytime. During the legislative session, I can be reached at megan.hess@legis.iowa.gov and (515) 281-3221. If you are in Des Moines, please stop by the Capitol. This building belongs to you and it is always great to see people from back home. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving as your State Representative.

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$20,000 won't pay for tuition. Sorry.

I do have a question for our representative. You ran a very, very expensive campaign. Maybe even a $1 million campaign. Why pay that much for a State Rep. campaign? It doesn't make sense to me.

-- Posted by Molly Weasley on Fri, Feb 1, 2013, at 1:48 PM

Molly- I do not believe the point of an initiative is to cover tuition. It is just meant to provide an incentive for people to take an interest in teaching in Iowa for at least five years.

-- Posted by deweyh on Fri, Feb 8, 2013, at 7:13 AM

Absolutely right, deweyh. Also, let me add that with average scholarships, grants, etc, $20,000 can come close.

-- Posted by notinia on Fri, Feb 8, 2013, at 1:07 PM

There are plenty of teachers----you'd just need to pay them a living wage and they'd stick around.

The latest legislative body plans to give a proposal and then make it optional for schools to implement it. Why are they wasting this time----they are not experts on schools or teaching or learning----and they aren't funding anything they propose anyway.

None of this benefits students, nor Iowa. Maybe benefits the legislators...

-- Posted by kmom on Fri, Feb 15, 2013, at 11:31 AM

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