Idaho Educators make early push to continue increasing teacher pay

Idaho Educators and the Push for Increasing Teacher Salary

On July 26, 2017, the Idaho State Department of Education received intentions from Education groups that their intent is to continue increasing teacher salary. Under current Idaho legislation, teacher’s salary is determined by using a career ladder. The House Bill for the career ladder was signed in 2015 and is a five-year plan to increase teacher pay. This career ladder was developed to give all teachers a pay raise, annually. When the plan is fully implemented in 2019-2020, teachers in the first three years of teaching will make $37,000 to $39,000 per year. Teachers with more than three years of teaching experience will make $42,500 to $50,000 annually. This plan raises the base teacher salary as well as experienced teacher’s salaries. The current average teacher salary in Idaho, reported by IDEdNews, is $45,207. Increasing teacher salary is something on which all sides appear to agree. It is the hope of all parties involved to attract teachers to Idaho.

Career Ladder

One of the hopes for the career ladder was attracting teachers to districts who were experiencing difficulty getting new teachers to apply at their schools. In 2015 for example, Northern Idaho pay was 15% less than a district 30 miles away in Washington. Another hope was to retain experienced teachers. Also in 2015, an experienced teacher could make $13,000 more by moving across the border into Oregon. This lack of pay for teachers developed a low morale among Idaho teachers. Neighboring states pay more in starting salary to their teachers. Over the course of five years, the career ladder will increase those salaries and help school districts attract and retain effective teachers.

After the bill was signed in 2015, school districts were given $33.5 million for teacher pay. Schools could decide how to implement the career ladder or if they wanted to implement the career ladder. Districts could keep their existing pay scale and negotiate pay raises. That was a popular option for many of Idaho’s school districts. The career ladder boosts beginning teacher pay, but one of the challenges will be finding money to keep experienced teachers. Most of the career ladder money goes to beginning teachers. The legislature chose not to create a top tier cap at $60,000. Instead, they capped it at $50,000. In the 2019-2020 school year, the Master Educator Premium will be instituted to reward Idaho’s most experienced teachers.

Another aspect of the career ladder is teacher evaluation. Most of Idaho uses the Danielson model for teacher evaluations. Idaho law requires that administrators conduct a minimum of two classroom observations per year for every teacher in the building. The creator of the model, Charlotte Danielson, is troubled by the fact a teacher evaluation is being used to award raises. Danielson is not the only one concerned about the evaluation. Currently, Idaho Governor Otter is concerned about the accuracy of teacher evaluations. The state needs an accountability piece to justify the millions spent on teacher pay. Because of those concerns, $1 million of funding has been provided to train administrators in teacher evaluations.


Top Issues for Idaho’s Superintendent of Public Education

Along with increasing teacher pay, the Superintendent of Public Education, Sherri Ybarra is going to try a third time to make a rural school support center a reality. She would like to see the mastery-based education pilot program expanded to more than the current 19 participants. Funding for technology in the classroom is also on her list of priorities. Superintendent Ybarra must have her budget package to the Governor Otter by September 1.

Top Issues for Idaho Education Leaders & Groups

Education Leaders also have more priorities than ensuring teacher’s salaries are increased. They would like to see increases in funding for classified staff that are not currently covered by the career ladder. Education leaders would like to see more local control of how their monies are spent rather than have certain dollar amounts earmarked for specific spending. Professional development funding for teachers to increase their skill set to help students is also another priority.

The Legislative School Funding Formula Committee will meet during the summer months to look at modifying or overhauling how Idaho schools are funded. They will be discussing insurance and Master Educator Premium issues. An Educator Pipeline Workgroup has also formed to look at possible solutions for Idaho’s teacher shortage.

Revisions to the Idaho Payday Loan Act, authored by Twin Falls Republican Sen. Lee Heider

When it comes to the payday lending industry in Idaho, Republican Senator Lee Heider has done what he can to protect consumers and help them stay out of the debt cycles that are all too common with short-term loans. While there is still work to be done, he has at least made progress.

Here’s how payday loans work in Idaho

The Payday Loan Process

For consumers in need of fast cash, payday loans are often the fastest option. The payday loan process is as follows:

1. The consumer goes to the payday loan company’s office and fills out brief paperwork.
2. As long as the consumer has a job and a bank account, the payday loan company will approve them for a loan.
3. The payday loan company lends the consumer their desired amount.
4. The consumer writes the payday loan company a check for the loan plus the finance charge.
5. The payday loan company waits until the next pay period, typically two weeks, and then cashes the consumer’s check.

The payday loan company doesn’t run a credit check on consumers and the entire process hardly ever takes longer than an hour. Because of this, payday loan companies get quite a few low-income borrowers and they need money to cover an emergency.

The Dangers of Payday Loans

So, what’s the problem with the payday lending industry? It all comes down to the interest rates on payday loans, which are astoundingly high. For comparison’s sake, a high-interest credit card or loan could have an interest rate of 36 percent. The average interest rate on payday loans in Idaho are 582 percent. That’s the highest in the nation, but it’s not like Idaho is an outlier here. In states where payday loans are legal, interest rates are almost always extremely high, unless there are laws preventing it.

Let’s say you get a payday loan for $1,000. At that interest rate of 582 percent, you’ll need to pay $242.50 in interest after the first two weeks, meaning you’ll write the lender a check for $1,242.50. One of two things would typically happen in Idaho after that. The lender would try to cash the check, but the consumer didn’t have the money and would get hit with overdraft penalties. Lenders often would try to cash checks several times resulting in more fees for the consumer.

Or, the consumer refinances their loan with the lender. The standard method of refinancing a payday loan is paying the interest and starting up a new term. The problem with this is you then need to pay more interest for that new term, putting you in the same position as before. The Idaho Payday Loan Act does put a limit to renewals on payday loans, capping them at three before the loan must be paid in full.

Changes to the Idaho Payday Loan Act

As of July 1, 2014, changes went into effect for the Idaho Payday Loan Act. Senator Heider sponsored Senate Bill 1314, which contained several provisions designed to protect consumers.

It started by putting a cap on the amount that payday loan companies could lend to consumers. The maximum amount for a payday loan is now 25 percent of the borrower’s gross monthly income or $1,000, whichever is lower. This ensures that consumers don’t borrow more than they can afford to pay back.

To keep consumers from getting hit with overdraft fee after overdraft fee, the bill stipulates that lenders can initial present the check once, and then present it again two more times should the loan still be unpaid.

To prevent consumers from ending up in a cycle of debt, the bill requires that lenders offer extended payment plans for consumers who request them. These payment plans give consumers the opportunity to repay a payday loan over 60 days in four equal payments without any extra fees. However, consumers can only request this for one payday loan every 12 months.

Finally, the bill requires payday loan companies to include a disclosure in 12-point bold, capitalized font. There are six disclosures that lenders must provide to all consumers. This ensures that consumers are fully informed regarding how payday loans work and their rights.

Interest Rates Are Still an Issue

The obvious omission from Senate Bill 1314 is anything related to payday loan interest rates, which can still be as high as the lender wants. That has led to some criticism that the bill doesn’t offer much in the way of protection that wasn’t already part of the Idaho Payday Loan Act.

Idaho Community Action executive director Terri Sterling says that consumers are still vulnerable and advocates for a 36-percent interest rate limit on payday loans. It would seem that this limit allows payday lenders to continue to make money while retaining a competitive advantage over other lenders that take longer to approve borrowers for loans. Of course, the payday lending industry always pushes back against anything that threatens its profits, and 36-percent interest is quite a bit smaller than 582-percent interest.

The good news is that more traditional lenders in Idaho have started offering short-term loans of their own with interest rates starting at 15 percent. This gives consumers who would have previously turned to payday loans another option.

The Future of Payday Lending in Idaho

Right now, the payday lending industry is still thriving in Idaho due to those high interest rates. While the consumer protections of Senate Bill 1314 help, they don’t solve the dangers of payday loans, and it’s a bit like putting a band-aid on a broken arm.

If Idaho ends up capping short-term loan interest rates in the future, expect to see many payday loan companies leave the state. That’s what has happened in several other states that passed laws establishing interest rate limits for short-term loans.