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Iowa Department of Education reports increase of teachers during pandemic

Iowa added 455 new full-time public school teachers in the 2020-21 school year, however it's a trend the Muscatine School District is not seeing.

MUSCATINE, Iowa — The Iowa Department of Education on Friday released its annual Condition of Education report containing state-level data and information on state schools. 

The report includes data on preschool through 12th grade student populations and demographics, academic achievement, postsecondary enrollment and completion, special education, teacher and school administrator characteristics and salaries, and school financial information. 

The data reflects the 2020-21 school year. 

Across the state, Iowa the number of full-time public school teachers increased by 455 from 2019-20. During the 2020-21 school year, there were a total of 38,0222 teachers. That also marks a 13.1% increase from the 2000-01 school year when there were 33,610 teachers. 

However, that's not something the Muscatine School district is "necessarily feeling the impact of," according to Jaime Kroeger, Director of Human Resources and Equity. She said the district is "in a fairly decent place in terms of teacher staffing."

"We're not as bad off as some districts are, but we are definitely always on the lookout for high quality teachers," Kroeger said. 

The district is currently hiring more teachers for the spring semester and is proactively hiring for next year though. 

"(The district is) trying to think outside the box," she said. "We are working to get some student teachers under contract as soon as they get a license in January, and getting them into our classrooms as soon as possible to help alleviate some of those mid-year vacancies that we're seeing."

Kroeger attributes the need for teachers to "normal attrition." She also said some of the staff are having babies. 

The district is looking for elementary teachers, as well as secondary teachers for more specialized content, such as social studies, math, special education and foreign languages. Substitute teachers are also always needed. 

"Fifteen years ago, you would have had hundreds of applicants for a grade level position," Kroeger said. "Now, there just aren't that many candidates in our area, or those who are willing to even go into the field, like there were, you know, 15, 20 years ago."

She said the district is starting its hiring process for next year much earlier than it has in the past. 

"We have extended interviews to all of our student teachers, we have gone out to look for student teachers that may not be student teaching in our district," Kroeger said. "That's just that we can be proactive and get to the candidates, where they're at in their stage of their educational career prior to us getting to the end of the year, and great candidates have already gotten snatched up."

She added that they've been extending contingent offers now "which is kind of unheard of for second semester."

Iowa also reported that the average regular teacher salary was up. In the 2020-21 school year, the average was $58,771 compared to $58,110 in 2019-20.

Over the last two fiscal years, Muscatine teacher contracts saw 2.2% and 2.26% total package increases. 

"We have a very competitive salary schedule for our teachers," Kroeger said. "I think that there's a lot of growth in public education, especially for increasing the value that we can place on our educators. And that's not just teachers too. There's value to be had with all of our support staff, as well."

Additionally, for the first time since the 2011-12 school year, public school K-12 enrollment dropped in Iowa from 490,094 in 2019-20 to 484,159 in 2020-21. 

The Muscatine School District has seen its enrollment trend downward. Its certified enrollment from October 2020 was 4,450 and its certified enrollment from October 2021 was 4,380, a net loss of 70 students. 

However, Kroeger also noted that this year kindergarten enrollment in the district increased slightly from 319 to 321. She said the district projects that number will continue to trend in the positive direction with the addition of its dual language program

Some of the other data reported in the 2021 Iowa Condition of Education report:

  • Minority students made up 26.1% of the student population in Iowa school districts, up from 25.7% the previous year.
  • 41.8% of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, down from 42.4% in 2019-20. 
  • The percent of students whose native language is not English (Englisher learners) was 6.3% down from 6.5% 
  • 48.8% of students from Iowa's class of 2021 took higher-level mathematics, including calculus, statistics and trigonometry, up from 48.6%
  • 51.7% of school districts had students taking Advanced Placement classes, down from 54.3% 
  • The state's total per-pupil expense was $10,794, up from $10,738.

More information on the 2021 Annual Condition of Education is available on the Education Statistics page, including past editions dating back to 1998. 

Anyone interested in applying for positions within the Muscatine School District can apply here