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"How Strong Are U.S. Teacher Unions? A State-by-State Comparison"

"How Strong Are U.S. Teacher Unions? A State-by-State Comparison"

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Published by Meryn Fluker
This is Iowa's profile in the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's study of teacher unions' power and influence.
This is Iowa's profile in the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's study of teacher unions' power and influence.

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Meryn Fluker on Nov 15, 2012
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12/04/2012

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Overall Rank: 27thTier 3 (Average)
IOWA
IntroductionPart IV: Taking a Closer Look–Teacher Union Influence Area
 AREA 1: RESOURCES AND MEMBERSHIP  27TH 
Compared with unions in other states, themembership and nancial resources ofIowa’s state teacher union is in the middleof the pack. Approximately three out offour teachers in the Hawkeye State areunion members (its membership rate of73.3 percent is 30th out of 51 jurisdictions).From its members, the Iowa EducationAssociation brings in $496 annually perteacher in the state (26th of 51). Andwhile 57.3 percent of total K–12 educationspending in Iowa goes to teacher salariesand benets (8th), just 17.4 percent of stateexpenditures go toward K–12 education(34th), giving teachers what amounts to alarge slice of a small pie. 
 AREA 2: INVOLVEMENT IN POLITICS 
 2
TIED FOR 23RD
Teacher unions have been moderatelyactive in Iowa state politics over the pastdecade.
3
Their donations amounted to0.59 percent of the total contributions tocandidates for state ofce (25th) and 2.2percent of donations received by statepolitical parties (12th). Further, 16.6 percentof Iowa’s delegates to the Democratic andRepublican national conventions wereteacher union members (16th).
4
 AREA 3: SCOPE OF BARGAINING32ND
While Iowa is one of thirty-two statesthat require collective bargaining, thestate does not permit its unions toautomatically collect agency fees from
 
IOWA
OVERALL RANK: 27TH
1
TIER 3 (AVERAGE)
STRONGERWEAKER
1. RESOURCES  AND MEMBERSHIP OVERALL 2. INVOLVEMENT IN POLITICS  3. SCOPE OF BARGAINING 4. STATE POLICIES  5. PERCEIVEDINFLUENCE 
272311273132
 
Overall Rank: 27thTier 3 (Average)
IOWA
non-member teachers, and it prohibitsteacher strikes. Still, the state allows abroad scope of bargaining: Of twenty-one provisions examined in this metric,nine must be negotiated: wages, hours,grievance procedures, transfers/teacherreassignments, layoffs, evaluation processesand instruments, insurance benets, fringebenets, and leave. Only one item, pension/ retirement benets, is explicitly excludedfrom negotiations. Bargaining over theremaining eleven items is implicitly allowedbecause the state is silent on them.
 AREA 4: STATE POLICIE11TH 
Iowa’s education policies generallyalign with traditional teacher unioninterests. State law does not require thatstudent achievement factor into teacherevaluations; does not support teacherperformance pay; and grants tenurevirtually automatically after three years.Further, charter schools are limited;although there’s no cap on the numberof such schools, Iowa does not allow newor virtual charters, only conversions ofexisting district schools. It also requiresall charters to be approved by both alocal school board and the state board ofeducation—a more restrictive authorizingpolicy than in many other states. All charterschool teachers must be certied and allcharter schools must participate in districtcollective bargaining agreements.
 AREA 5: PERCEIVED INFLUENCE 31ST 
Stakeholders report that the Iowa unionhas limited reach. Survey respondents rankits inuence on education policy slightlybehind that of the state school boardand slightly ahead of the association ofschool administrators, the school boardassociation, and education advocacyorganizations. But they note that stateeducation leaders only sometimes alignwith teacher union priorities, and thatunions often turn to compromise tosee their preferred policies enacted. Inaddition, stakeholders report that policiesproposed in the latest legislative sessionwere mostly
not 
in line with union priorities,while policies actually enacted were only
 somewhat 
in line.
5
OVERALL 27TH 
While Iowa teachers see a comparativelylarge share of overall spending on K–12education going to teacher salary andbenets, their state union does not have alarge degree of nancial and membershipresources itself. Even though unionscontribute signicant amounts to statepolitical parties, and enjoy a favorablepolicy environment at the state level,stakeholders do not perceive the union asparticularly inuential.
 
Overall Rank: 27thTier 3 (Average)
IOWA
The slide o Hawkeye students rom well above the national average in reading and math in the early to mid-1990s down toaverage in 2011 garnered signifcant concern rom state leaders.
6
In July 2011, Republican governor Terry Branstad hosted theIowa Education Summit, and Chris Bern, then president o the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA), was pleased with theresults: “It was a good exchange o a lot o dierent ideas.”
7
He was not so enthusiastic when Branstad presented the blueprintor his education reorm bill, which included a progressive plan or compensation, increased tenure requirements, and a plan todecertiy teachers on the basis o unsatisactory evaluations.
8
Discussion o the plan in the legislature quickly broke along party lines, with Republicans supporting the governor while SenateDemocrats insisted on amending provisions related to student testing, the expansion o charter schools, and online education.The ISEA also pushed hard or such amendments.
9
The reorm bill that the Senate fnally passed replaced the ormal annualevaluations that Branstad sought with peer reviews two out o every three years, omitted a value-added assessment system,and reduced opportunities or online learning.
10
“Unortunately, I think the Senate bill is a much watered-down version,”lamented Branstad.
11
But the two chambers o the legislature passed the bill, which the governor signed in May 2012 (althoughnot without taking one last swipe at the law, calling it “a frst step” but afrming that “bold reorm is still needed”).
12
Turns out more than just Iowans were paying attention to the outcome. When the ederal government issued a stack o NCLBwaivers in June 2012, Iowa was conspicuously omitted. The state’s department o education and governor both pointed fngersat lawmakers, indicating that legislative (in)action was to blame. “Responsibility or the denial o this request lies squarelyat the eet o the Iowa Legislature, which did too little to improve our schools despite repeated warnings,” said Branstad.
13
 Whether the legislature is to blame or its toothless reorm bill or the union or pressuring lawmakers to remove the teeth, littlehelp is in sight or Iowa’s still-sliding students.
MIRED IN MEDIOCRITY 

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