Governor Praises New Program, Still Can’t Say When School Funding Fight Ends

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PLEASANT HILL, Iowa -- Iowa Governor Terry Branstad held a round table discussion with educators at Southeast Polk Junior High School Monday to push successes of his Iowa's Teacher Leadership and Compensation System, which he signed into law in 2013.

"This is not an experiment," Branstad assured teachers and administrators. "It is permanent. It's something that we really think will make a difference in transforming education."

Second year teacher Madison Fontana, a second grade educator, praised the help mentors have meant to her young career. Fontana said, "It's just opened a lot of doors for opportunities to practice new strategies that are being brought into the district. It's also just been a really huge support system for new teachers, as well."

Southeast Polk Superintendent Craig Menozzi said, under the leadership program, his district received $2.2 million to raise salaries of 120 of his 492 teachers, who take on additional duties as trainers for other teachers. He also hired 20 teachers to replace the trainers in the classroom.

The legislature provided $50 million this year for Southeast Polk and 38 other districts to take part in the initiative. The program expands by 76 districts for the 2015-16 school year, with overall state funding doubling to $100 million, the governor said. The 2016-17 school year will get $150 million for districts.

While the funding for the 2015-16 school year is set for the leadership program, it still isn't for the Supplemental State Aid, which provides the per student funding districts receive. The governor offered no words that showed lawmakers' stalemate will end soon in the disagreement over setting this fall's funding levels.

Per Iowa Code, legislators should have determined funding for the 2015-16 school within 30 days of the time the governor presents his budget the year before. That means they should have reached agreement by February 13, 2014.

Channel 13's "The Insiders" heard from teachers and administrators on the impact of the stalemate, along with lawmakers on why they can't compromise toward a solution yet. 

Menozzi said his district, because of the uncertainly on overall funding, is making assumptions it will get no additional funding for the coming year in Supplemental State Aid. That means $600,000 in cuts from the $110 million budget. Menozzi isn't expecting to lose any teachers from the cuts. He said he will instead rely on savings in areas like reduced energy costs and classroom supplies.