On June 1, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack (D) signed new legislation that will reduce class size, raise graduation standards, and increase teacher salaries. Vilsack signed the legislation at East High School in Des Moines. He said that the bill was the most important that he has signed and called the day the proudest of his nearly 8 years as governor.
For the first time in the state’s history, Iowa will now have graduation requirements statewide. “It is important that we send the message that young people will have to be prepared with a more rigorous and more relevant education if they are to compete,” Vilsack said.
Under the new law, Iowa high school students will have to complete 4 years of English/language arts, 3 years of math, 3 years of science, and 3 years of social studies. Vilsack also announced an intention to develop a core curriculum for high schools that will “define the skills and the knowledge that young people will need to be successful in the future.”
To help ensure that more students graduate from high school, one of the new laws will provide additional funding for Iowa’s community colleges and for Jobs for America’s Graduates (I-JAG) program. The I-JAG works to “reduce the number of students who are at risk of dropping out and help them to become productive youth,” according to the Iowa Department of Education’s website. The Iowa program, which is an affiliate of the 25-year-old national Jobs for America’s Graduates organization, features a statewide system of school-to-work transition and dropout prevention for at-risk youth. It helps students develop workforce skills that enable them to be successful in the school-to-work transition and provides individual career planning and 1 year of post-high school follow-up.
The legislation will increase compensation for Iowa’s teachers by $210 million over the next 3 years and will raise the new minimum salary by $1,000. It will also provide additional compensation for teachers who work in high-need schools and in subject areas in which there is a shortage, such as math and science. In his press conference, Vilsack noted that there are only five individuals in the entire state university system who are preparing to become physics teachers.
Read the news release and watch the press conference at http://www.governor.state.ia.us/news/2006/june/june0106_1.html.