Education and taxation were two of the main topics discussed at a legislative roundtable Friday morning at the Vermeer Global Pavilion in Pella. Legislators, representing Marion and Mahaska counties, took part in the roundtable, that included approximately 30 guests. The session opened with each legislator introducing themselves.
“We’re trying to stay relevant,” Sen. Amy Sinclair (R-District 14) said. She, along with Sen. Ken Rozenboom (R-District 40) are in the minority party in the Senate. Democrats control the Senate and set the agenda. The two of them, according to Rozenboom, have been on parallel paths, politically. Both are freshmen Senators and former county supervisors. They even sit together in the Senate.
Attending from the House were Larry Sheets, Guy VanderLinden and Greg Heartsill, all Republicans as well. Republicans control the House, which passed an education reform bill, one that is in line with Gov. Terry Branstad’s proposal and with a lower increase in spending.
Though a Republican governor made the proposal, there were concerns among those in his party about them. Sheets pointed out that he did not agree with taking experienced teachers out of the classroom. The pay increase, for a starting teacher, is now $4,000, compared to $7,000 proposed by Branstad. Sheets believed this put too much of a burden on smaller school districts, but he voted for the bill after changes were made.
“My concerns for the small schools were satisfied,” Sheets said.
One of the first questions from the audience was how Iowa can attract the best and brightest teachers. Sinclair, whose husband is a public school administrator, said that pay is the key.
“Honestly, pay increases will help us,” Sinclair said. “I think it’s a ‘let’s find efficiency to pay for it’ situation,” she added. The Legislature is considering tuition reimbursement for the top 25 percent of graduates who go into education, with more incentives for those who go into more difficult to fill positions.