In the past couple weeks, we have had a couple stories highlighting the positives occurring in Iowa’s education system. This past week’s news is related to teacher pay in Iowa. A report from NPR, in collaboration with a nonprofit called EdBuild, took a look at teacher pay across the country and how it compares when adjusted for cost-of-living in each state. What it found is that Iowa ranks eighth in the country at $60,868 adjusted. And this is only $69 behind the sixth place state.

NPR wrote in the article, which took a look at a recent teachers’ strike in West Virginia:

“This got us wondering: What do teachers make across the country?

When people (not just teachers and politicians, but reporters, too) talk about average salaries, they often use numbers that haven’t been adjusted for regional differences in cost of living. Clearly, the costs of life — from rents and mortgages to movies, food and day care — vary widely, depending on where we live. Without adjusting for that, comparing teachers’ salaries in New York to, say, California is classic apples to oranges.”

This prompted them to reach out to EdBuild, a nonprofit claiming to bring “common sense and fairness to the way states fund public schools,” to find the answer. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, an entity of the federal Department of Education, and the Council for Community and Economic Research, which has published the Cost of Living Index since 1968, EdBuild produced the results in the report.

On its current value, Iowa’s teacher pay ranks 23rd. But with the cost of living adjustment, Iowa ranks easily in the top 10 as follows:

The other positive story came out of KCRG in Cedar Rapids. They looked into the claim that school funding increases in Iowa have not kept up with inflation and found that to be untrue. Looking at the per pupil amount in the state funding formula, they used the $5,883 per pupil number in 2011 and determined that with inflation, the number this year would be $6,539. That’s $52 below the actual state cost per pupil established for FY17, which was $6,591. Since that time, the legislature has increased the per pupil amount to $6,731 for the FY19 school year.

KCRG also found that teacher salaries in Cedar Rapids are also outpacing inflation. In FY11, the teacher average salary was $55,000. With inflation, that would translate to $62,000 today. But the actual average salary is $69,000.

Here’s where the crunch comes in for school districts: while salaries are outpacing inflation, they are also outpacing state funding. KCRG’s analysis found that the salaries in Cedar Rapids increased 25 percent, while state funding increased 14 percent. And because of this, cuts to staffing levels and other things in the district ensued. While it is true that local administrators face the pressure of a competitive employee market, that does not absolve them from the responsibility for agreeing to salary increases which outpaced revenues.

House Republicans are proud of the increases in state funding that the legislature has provided to schools over the past eight years. State aid has increased from $2.444 billion in FY11 to an estimated $3.212 billion in FY19, a $767 million (30.41 percent) increase. Graduation rates are increasing, college preparation scores continue to lead the nation, teacher numbers and salaries have increased (2,363 and $5,214 respectively) during this same period. And all of this occurred while taking Iowa to one of the best run states in the nation, providing unprecedented flexibility for districts, and a shift of returning control of schools back to locally elected school boards and not state-level bureaucrats.

View the NPR report here:

View the KCRG report here:

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