Minnesota Schools Say They’ll Start Poaching Iowa Teachers

In the waning hours of Iowa’s collective bargaining debate, neighboring states are warning (or perhaps trolling) the inevitable outcome for Iowa workers. A Minnesota superintendent whose district is near the Iowa border sent around a letter to media to inform people of his plan to start luring Iowa teachers north.

Joseph Brown, Sr., who served as an Iowa state senator in the 1980s, explained how Minnesota saw an influx of teachers from Wisconsin after Scott Walker’s efforts to gut that state’s collective bargaining rights. He anticipated the same would happen to Iowa.

Here is Brown’s letter in full:

As the Fairmont Area School district superintendent, located in south central Minnesota, I want to personally thank the Iowa legislature for dismantling Chapter 20 of the Iowa Code. You see, this country is facing a serious shortage of qualified and certified teachers.

Ten years ago, Fairmont would receive over 100 applications for an elementary opening. Two years ago we had three openings due to retirements and we only received 5 applications and hired three of them. Last year we had a 5th grade opening due to a retirement and we did not receive any applicants. I had to personally recruit a teacher from a neighboring district that was a resident of ours to teach at Fairmont.

By the way, our starting salary is $40,000. Teachers at the top of our salary schedule may earn $70,000.

When Governor Walker and the Wisconsin legislature reduced collective bargaining rights, Minnesota became the net gainer as we actively recruited Wisconsin teachers to relocate to Minnesota. I anticipate that if and when Iowa destroys Chapter 20, once again, Minnesota will be the net gainer by making it easier to recruit Iowa teachers to relocate to Minnesota. In my opinion this will result in a shortage of Iowa teachers.

As a born and raised Iowan, I gladly tell people that I have the best of both worlds: an Iowa education and a Minnesota paycheck. Please note that I served two terms in the Iowa Senate from 1979-1986. During my first four years I served as the ranking member of the Senate Education Committee. During my last four years I served as the chairperson of the Senate Education Committee and Vice-Chair of the Senate Labor Committee. It doesn’t surprise me that the Republican legislators are pushing H.F. 291 and S.F. 213. It does disappoint me. It will result in Iowa becoming a loser and neighboring states becoming winners. Please feel free to share this letter with others.

Joseph E. Brown, Sr.
Superintendent, Fairmont School District


by Pat Rynard
Posted 2/16/17

23 Comments on "Minnesota Schools Say They’ll Start Poaching Iowa Teachers"

  • I have a copy of the 1979-1980 red book. I looked up Joe Brown. He was a Democrat from Montezuma who served the then 35th Senatorial district.
    He was a government and economica instructor at Montezuma HS. Very well educated. Iowa lost one to Mn and doubt if we will get him back. We are set to lose more.

    • Yes, indeed. I know Joe Brown quite well, and I often work as a substitute teacher in Fairmont. They have a very good school system, but they do have a difficult time finding good, qualified teachers. What the Legislature is doing is certain to cost the state many of its most gifted educators, especially younger ones who will likely never return to the state.

  • So, if the “best of both worlds” is an Iowa education and a Minnesota paycheck, does that mean that a Minnesota education is inferior? Not doing your job as Superintendent very well, are you? Also, the State of Iowa maintains a balanced-budget, Minnesota operates with a deficit. One more thing, In Spirit Lake, not too far from Fairmont, our starting salaries AND top salaries are already higher than yours, so good luck with that “poaching strategy!”

    • Unfortunately, you have missed the point entirely. Your Spirit Lake salaries and benefits are a direct result of collective bargaining (read – UNION) and those are being stripped from teachers in Iowa. Class sizes will rise, salaries will plummet, and the teacher work load will increase. During this time, there will be no union to protect teachers and students in Spirit Lake. Young, qualified teachers will need to look elsewhere (i.e. Minnesota) to find a school district that supports them in a life-long career of teaching. This decision will be the downfall of Iowa public schools.

    • We will see if your salary schedule remains the same-my district in Wisconsin changed its salary schedule. If I was a new teacher to the district with my current level of experience and had not been grandfathered in, I would be earning $16,000 less a year. Additionally, salary isn’t everything. My district has doubled its number of after school meetings, requires fifteen hours of unpaid staff development outside the school schedule, and we are paying more of our benefits and retirement so our net pay has dropped.

    • You might want to check your facts. Minnesota has actually had major budget surpluses in recent years under Democratic Governor Dayton, and is consistently ranked ahead of Iowa in education. I would guess his “best of both worlds” comment is more about hometown pride. But sure, go ahead and treat teachers even worse than they are already and see how that affects the teacher shortage. What could go wrong?

    • Don’t count on your salary schedule staying the same. One of the changes my Wisconsin district did after Act 10 was revamp the salary schedule. If I were not grandfathered in, I would be making $16,000 less under the new schedule. Additionally, it’s not all about salary. Your net salary is less because of what you’re now paying in for retirement and insurance. Also my district doubled the number of after school meetings and has us do unpaid staff development hours on our own time that have to be approved by the district.

    • We actually have a large surplus in Minnesota. We raised taxes and job growth is huge in Minnesota. It’s always at the top of best places to live because we educate our people well.

    • Not for long…IA will slash benefits and the net package in MN will be better. Good luck with keeping your teachers in IA. Suckers.

    • You are in the minority in Iowa for salary. The Republicans & Terry are trying to line the pockets of his business friends by giving them incentives. Take from the middle class and give to the wealthy.

    • MN has a surplus since we elected Dayton and a Democrats legislature. We do fear that deficits will return with the Republican effort to cut taxes.

    • Keith Brockmeyer, Yeah, I noticed that too. I’m guessing he only really says that to Iowans, when playing up his Iowa upbringing. Heh.
      He may do better than you think at teacher poaching though. Fairmont average is $42,728, Spirit Lake is $37,370. The ranges are corresponding. And these numbers are from the same website, same methodology:


      And overall Iowa teacher salaries are pretty low, between 45th and 49th in the last decade. They had been rising, but…. Minnesota, by contrast, is 17th to 21st.

      (I went to Missouri public schools – and then college in Minnesota.)

    • So apparently he isn’t allowed to be proud of his Iowa schooling if he now works in Minnesota? Obviously he is saying that Iowa used to be better at education than they are now, and that Minnesota is now better. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But it’s obvious that’s what his point is.

  • Keith Brockmeyer, my very same thought about Iowa’s balanced budget vs. Minnesota’s years of continued growting deficeit
    On another forum a teacher was complaining that AFTER taxes and would guess the automatically withdrawn union dues, that all she had left was a “meager” $29,000. Really? Many other IA workers would be very happy if they could net that amount and they work 12 months vs. teachers 9 months. It’s about CHOICE. Anyone entering a job knows the requirements, salary, benefits, etc. So why are they complaining about THEIR CHOICE and expecting others to remedy their choice. I listened to a lot of the debate from both chambers. Ohhh, the ominous and dire predictions of what WILL happen. The fear mongering of being fired for no reason, failing schools, etc. Sorry, but IA already has laws in place about being fired for no reason. Hmmm, would like that magical crystal ball. There is a tremendous amount of fluff spending in the public school system. And what is the problem of living within their means? Don’t most families do it every day?

  • I have lived in Iowa most all of my life. I’ve taught middle school in Iowa.I won’t leave Iowa for Minn, but only because it would be cheating the kids I teach AND I can afford to take the low wage. But the younger ones can’t and I can understand their leaving.

  • Teacher salaries are a joke. No wonder fewer and fewer people get into the field. Starting salary barely pays living and transportation expenses after taxes.That leaves little room for savings your paying down student loans.

  • He’s trying to fight for education, our teachers, and our students in both states, and in the United States as a whole. He was not trying to show Iowa as superior to Minnesota (or vice versa); he was very obviously trying to show the implications of short-sighted actions of politicians who are more worried about their party than their constituents. I applaud Mr. Brown for this.

  • If Fairmont was such a picture of the garden of Eden why the struggle to fill a slot? No applicants? Says more about the lack of students going into the profession to me. Iowa will lose some teachers, certainly, but they do every year. From college as new teachers, to individual reasons to move to Minn or MO or the inner city of NJ. All will move for their own reasons, and this legislation will be used as the touchstone of all that is wrong by those that need a scapegoat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *