Heaton updates MP School Board on Branstad's latest education plan
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Another year, another plan.
State Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mt. Pleasant, updated the Mt. Pleasant School Board on Gov. Terry Branstad’s latest plan for education.
Major points of the $175 million plan include raising the base teacher salary to $35,000 over three years; allows for higher compensation for “high-need” teachers (largely science and math subject areas); allows for progression of teachers from beginning teachers to mentor teachers and to master teachers (with more compensation as they progress).
Responding to a question Heaton said he would support the governor’s plan as long as several conditions are met.
“As long as it is proven that this program is sustainable over the long haul…If we can sustain it, I am all for it,” Heaton answered.
He expressed concern about the cost of the plan.
“The governor’s plan involved a lot of state money. If we adopt this, the Legislature probably will not look at allowable growth. This will be in place of allowable growth,” Heaton said.
Some $1.5 million of the governor’s education plan is earmarked to online education, Heaton continued.
“I am somewhat hesitant on expanding it. Online education is not for everybody,” the legislator stated. “But it is here to stay. You now can take a course at Harvard and not have to be there.”
Heaton said he was disappointed that there was nothing in Branstad’s plan addressing improving reading skills.
“The governor left something out that is very important to me — how to read,” Heaton, a former teacher, noted. “I don’t think kids should be able to advance beyond third grade if they don’t have minimum reading skills.
“We need to address reading for all kids, regardless of socio-economic levels. We need to spend $20 million on developing reading skills,” Heaton said.
Following the update, Heaton answered a few questions from board members.
Regina Erickson answered when the legislature was going to address the issue of the school calendar (expanding the calendar to include more days or more hours). Heaton asked the board whether they would entertain year-around classes.
“Sure,” answered Brad Holtkamp, board president. “It might be a tough sell initially.”
Although he didn’t say he supported year-around school, Heaton did say that summer vacation is a “killer” to struggling students. “If we stay with summers off, it kills the kid who struggles. We have to have remedial resources to pull these kids along.”
The district’s contributions to employee IPERS are rising because “people are living longer,” Heaton explained.
Director Lonny Morrow noted that school costs rise annually, but funding decreases.
A transportation levy (allowing school districts to levy taxes to fund transportation costs) might alleviate some of the pressure, Heaton said. “I can’t get the legislature to approve a transportation levy. Transportation funds should not come out of the general fund.”
Superintendent Dr. John Roederer told board members that the school’s lease on the district’s central office space at the Civic Center expires in 2015 and he has had some preliminary discussions with the city on the lease.
The school district pays the city $40,000 annually for the space which includes all utilities, Roederer said.
“I have approached Brent Schleisman (city administrator) about it. I want to know if our rent is going up or if we are getting evicted,” Roederer quipped.
In addition to the resignation from Bob Jensen, high school activities director, head football coach and exercise science teacher, directors accepted the resignation of Derek Mullin, .56 FTE high school industrial technology instructor.
Contracts were approved for Todd Mountz, ninth-grade girls’ basketball, and Donald Voorhees, high school night custodian. Additionally, Rob Lance and Travis Smith were approved as volunteer high school wrestling coaches, and Caleb Akey as volunteer high school basketball coach.
Open enrollment requests (into the district) were approved for Dallas Cheney, 10th grade, Cami Cheney, fifth grade, and Makenzie Mullin, kindergarten. All are open enrolling from the WACO Community School District.
Directors meet again in regular session Monday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m. in the high school media center.