The state's teacher union will begin an ad campaign this week to pressure lawmakers to spend $172 million to increase teacher pay over the next three years.
The radio spot began airing on 90 stations on Monday, timed to coincide with the opening of this year's legislative session.
"It's embarrassing to be from a state that says it values education, but where teacher salaries rank 41st in the nation," an announcer says in the spot. "How much lower in the rankings do we have to sink before something is done?"
Under the plan pushed by the Iowa State Education Assoc., the state would spend $1,500 per teacher over the next three years to raise the state's teacher salaries to 25th in the nation.
While that would still leave teacher pay in Iowa below the national average, it would make a "significant difference" in the state's ability to recruit and retain new teachers, union officials said. The union will also ask for $5.7 million to boost pay for teachers at community colleges.
The effort will be one of the hottest issues debated as the Legislature gears up.
House Speaker Chris Rants, R-Sioux City, said something needs to be done, but he wants a more focused effort. "I'm not going to argue that we need to do more with teacher salaries,. The reality is we have a finite amount of money to do it so let's look at math and science teachers first."
Rants said a shortage of math and science teachers is growing worse.
Elementary and secondary schools are already slated to get an additional $100 million next year because of a 4 percent increase in basic state aid. Gov. Tom Vilsack also has called for an additional $30 million a year for each of the next five years, with much of that money earmarked for increased pay.