Skip to Content

Our History

Here's a brief look at the events and activities that shaped the ISEA and public education in Iowa over the years:


The first meeting of the Iowa State Teachers Association is held at the Muscatine County Courthouse in Muscatine on May 10. John. A Parvin is elected the organization's first chairman.



For the first time, women are admitted as full members of the ISTA.


Years of work by the ISTA pays off with the founding of the first teacher training institution, the Iowa State Normal School at Cedar Falls.


ISTA successfully lobbies the Legislature to create an Educational Board of Examiners to govern teacher certification.


The ISTA-backed Better Iowa Schools Commission recommends education improvements to the 35th Iowa General Assembly which ultimately approves measures to strengthen teacher certification requirements and establish minimum teacher salaries based on preparation and experience.


The ISTA undergoes remarkable growth with the hiring of Charles F. Pye as the first full-time "executive secretary." He and his staff of three move into the Association's first office at the Youngerman Building in downtown Des Moines.


The ISTA acquires Midland Schools magazine which serves as a popular and award-winning voice of the Association for more than 50 years.


As its staff and programs continue to expand, the ISTA moves to a suite of offices at the Shops Building in downtown Des Moines.


Agnes Samuelson, former state superintendent and NEA president, becomes ISTA executive secretary. Over the course of her six-year tenure, she lays the foundation for the ISEA to emerge as the true advocacy organization it is today.


ISTA issues its most ambitious and progressive program for growth yet, "The Blueprint for the Future," which provides for the expansion of staff in the areas of research, publicity, public relations, teacher welfare, and the field service operation.


The ISEA, as it is now called, joins with the Iowa Farm Bureau, The Iowa Congress of Parents and Teachers, and a number of other state organizations to elect people to office who are friendly to education. Those efforts pay off over the next few years with the passage of legislation creating sick leave for teachers, increasing state aid to schools, and establishing the state Board of Public Instruction.


After years of work, the ISEA at long last wins the establishment of a sound retirement program for teachers and other public employees -- the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS).


ISEA members raise the $300,000 necessary to purchase Salisbury House, a 41-room mansion fashioned after a Tudor castle in Salisbury, England. Called a "living memorial to teachers," Salisbury House serves as the Association's headquarters until 1999.


A new publication, the ISEA Communique, debuts in September as a supplement to the popular Midland Schools magazine. Later that year, the ISEA Delegate Assembly calls for improvements in the continuing contract law requiring school districts to provide a written statement of reasons when terminating a teacher's contract.


The ISEA's field staff grows to five and the Association wins significant legislation including the creation of a Professional Practices Commission, improvements in the continuing contract law, and an increase in the salary figure used to calculate IPERS benefits.


In this milestone year, the ISEA receives funding for a new program called "UniServ," the Iowa Political Action Committee for Education (IPACE) is born, and Keokuk teachers stage the *first teacher strike because of the school board's refusal to accept a compromise salary proposal made by an impartial third party.

*Research completed in 2012 documented that the first teacher strikes in Iowa took place in 1920. These strikes occurred in Mound Prairie Township near Newton in February, Center Township near Sioux Center in March, and Correctionville in April. Other early, recently discovered Iowa teacher strikes took place in Zearing in 1922 and in Pleasant Valley Township near Fort Dodge in 1946.  Each of these strikes was reported in area newspapers at the time they took place. A story about these early strikes appeared in The Des Moines Register on September 18, 2012.


The ISEA censures the State Legislature for its lack of support for school funding. That action results in the creation of a landmark school aid formula. Later that year, ISEA challenges the Nixon administration's wage-price freeze and convinces school districts to pay teachers based on their 1971-72 contracted salaries.


The ISEA wins a court ruling clarifying that pregnant teachers cannot be forced to resign, that they can use their accumulated sick leave for maternity purposes, and that they have the right to return to work following their maternity leave. After more than three years of litigation, that decision is upheld in the Iowa Supreme Court in 1975.


After ten long years of lobbying, ISEA members at last witness the historic passage of the collective bargaining bill for public employees. Also in that year, ISEA secures passage of legislation to create 15 area education agencies.


The Iowa Legislature passes landmark legislation to protect teachers against arbitrary and capricious firings, capping a 13-year Association battle.


Following a massive ISEA media campaign, the Iowa Legislature provides funding to help districts cope with the effects of declining enrollment.


The ISEA launches its "Take Pride in Iowa Schools" media campaign to create an awareness of Iowa's high quality educational system and to fight back against the growing anti-public education sentiment of the conservative right wing movement. At the same time, the Association launches an all-out effort to defeat a proposed Constitutional Convention to limit taxes and government spending on education and other vital services.


Following the release of the infamous "A Nation at Risk" report warning of the "rising tide of mediocrity" in public education, the ISEA becomes the first organization in the state and in the nation to issue a comprehensive proposal for improving Iowa schools. The report, "Achieving Excellence in Our Schools: Major Areas for Renewal," sets the tone for the school reform movement that follows.


The Iowa Legislature approves the historic three-phased Educational Excellence Act which pumps more than $100 million into teachers' pockets.


The ISEA convenes the first in a series of conferences featuring labor-management consultant Pat Dolan in which teachers and administrators explore site-based decision making and how schools can restructure to better meet student needs. That work leads to the creation of the New Iowa Schools Development Corporation in 1991, the nation's first organization dedicated to encouraging and supporting local school transformation efforts.


After more than a year of research and information gathering, the ISEA releases Time for a Change, the nation's first report on the future of education from the classroom teacher's perspective.


With the advent of the Iowa Communications Network (ICN), the nation's first state-run fiber optic network, Iowa educators enter a new age of distance learning and the ISEA works to help shape the system into a positive teaching and learning tool.


The ISEA launches its "Kids 1st" campaign, an ambitious legislative plan to restore funding cuts to schools. It is met with moderate success.


The ISEA becomes one of the first state associations to have a presence in cyberspace with the launch of its Web site. ISEA also pioneers a non-adversarial approach to negotiations, called "interest-based bargaining," and wins significant improvements in IPERS, including the "Rule of 88."


After a constitutional amendment to limit government spending on schools and other public services (the Stanley Amendment) is pushed through the Legislature, the ISEA leads a 28-member coalition to defeat the measure at the ballot box. The amendment is soundly defeated in a June 29 special election. The ISEA moves into its new headquarters building in downtown Des Moines.


As a new millennium begins, the ISEA sounds the warning that Iowa is on the brink of a critical teacher shortage which threatens the quality of education. That effort pays off in the following year when the Legislature approves a landmark teacher compensation law which promises to significantly raise salaries over the next few years.


The ambitious goals outlined in the so-called teacher compensation law are still not realized as a faltering economy results in the loss of more than $250 million in promised funding for K-12 schools, area education agencies, and community colleges. As the ISEA begins its sesquicentennial year, we join with the Iowa Association of School Boards, School Administrators of Iowa, and the Iowa PTA in an unprecedented campaign to convince lawmakers to "Fund Our Future."


The Iowa Legislature approves a landmark bill that will dramatically increase K-12 salaries and give teachers a voice in determining their own professional development needs. The action caps a multi-year, multi-faceted campaign by the ISEA to bring teacher salaries up to 25th in the nation.



Embed This Page (x)

Select and copy this code to your clipboard