DES MOINES, Iowa — The pandemic exposed a growing issue in Iowa school districts. “I will tell you teachers are tired. Yes, they are leaving,” said Dwana Bradley, Chair of the Des Moines School Board.
Mike Beranek is the President of the Iowa State Education Association and says current and prospective teachers are weighing the risks and rewards more than ever before. “A beginning teacher in Iowa starts at $33,500. We have students that are graduating our colleges that are moving to Minnesota, or Illinois or Wisconsin,” Beranek said.
Bradley says President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan could be a saving grace for education in Iowa. “The efforts of the President will be well received by many districts not just here in Iowa but across the United States,” said Bradley.
The plan would send $1.6 billion for teachers to earn additional certifications. “Maybe we can’t give you that million dollar paycheck you deserve but we can do things like pay for education for that certificate. We can help you with that degree if you want to further your education to go up the ladder,” said Bradley.
It would increase scholarships for potential teachers from $4,000 to $8,000 dollars a year. Beranek said, “If there are resources available that could help motivate a senior in high school right now looking at a profession in education this would encourage them to move forward and become a licensed teacher.”
Also on the table $200 billion for universal preschool. Potentially saving families $13,000 dollars a year. Bradley said, “Universal preschool will allow our babies to be able to start out on the right footing so they won’t be coming to kindergarten off track.”
Just like technology in the classroom is changing, so is student diversity in Iowa classrooms. Aside from the Des Moines school district being 64% minority, the West Des Moines school district is 38% minority. President Biden hopes $2 billion can be funneled towards education leadership programs for new teachers and teachers of color. “This component of the President’s bill is incredibly important for the future of Iowa,” said Beranek. Bradley added, “I don’t want us to get so focused on bringing them here but we have to keep them here.”
Educators say without Biden’s plan it will require more than a vaccine to return to normalcy in an Iowa classroom. “So this is something that’s vital. It needs to be done at this moment in time because teachers are tired they are burnt out,” Bradley said.
The American Families Plan also aims to provide employees in Pre-K and headstart programs with a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour.