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ISEA president tours schools

By Staff | Oct 7, 2009

In his second year as Iowa State Education Association president, Chris Bern is making currently on his second tour of schools around the state.

Bern was in Estherville a year ago after he was elected to his position in June 2008

What did he learn about Iowa schools his first time around the state?

“The first thing is there’s a lot of great things in Iowa schools,” said Bern. “There’s hard-working people putting a lot of time in educating the students of the state.

“I’m finding the same this year,” he said. “It’s not an easy job-people put in a lot of long hours. Educators are very dedicated-working hard to give students the best education possible.”

The numbers bear that out as Bern said Iowa is holding its own with other states.

“We’re first in SAT scores and third or fourth in ACT scores,” he said.

That doesn’t mean Iowa can’t do better.

“Iowa is doing things-the core curriculum-once fully implemented-will make sure students are learning the things they need.”

Bern visited Estherville Lincoln Central Tuesday and his itinerary also included Armstrong-Ringsted and Spencer.

In meeting with teachers around the state, the question asked most often is “Will there be any changes to IPERS?” IPERS is the Iowa Public Retirement Program.

“Veteran teachers with 20 years or more are wondering if they’ll be able to retire when they plan to,” said Bern.

While he said some changes will have to be made to IPERS, Bern doesn’t expect any “drastic” changes.

However he said there will have to be some small changes for the fund to stay viable.

“We may be looking to increase the contribution rate,” he said. “That along with minor tweaks to other benefits will help us out.”

The state budget and economy has had its affect.

Bern says the ISEA’s position is to make sure the governor and the legislature keep education a priority.

“Just because the economy goes bad, students still need the same education as if it were good,” said Bern. “It takes resources and I believe the governor and legislature will keep it a priority.”

Bern said the ISEA also represents community colleges.

“From what I’ve heard all enrollments are up,” he said. “That’s good on the one hand.”

However since the colleges also were forced to make cuts, they’re having to do more with less people, Bern said.

Visiting Estherville Lincoln Central’s new middle school Monday morning, Bern was impressed, especially after visiting the old one in 2008.

“It looks like a lot of thought and planning went into it,” he said.