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.
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.