As of Tuesday, March 31, 2015
The Idaho Legislature passed HB 296, which is intended to attract and retain quality teachers in Idaho Schools. Under the new career ladder system starting teacher salary would rise from $31,750 to $32,700 beginning July 1st of this year. During the next five years that number would climb to $37,000. The cost of the pay increase to the state for those five years is expected to be $125 million.
The bill swept through the House and Senate drawing no opposing votes. It now awaits the Governor’s signature.
Marilyn Whitney, Senior Special Assistant for Education and Government Services, said that the bill would provide for an across the board pay increase to Idaho’s teachers and would address the fiscal instability in Idaho schools.
“This bill does that,” said Whitney, “by putting Idaho on a trajectory to significantly increase teacher salaries and to provide districts with a more stable source of salary funding.”
Under the career ladder teachers would progress through a series of rungs, beginning in the residential tier, which contains three salary levels. After three years they would be eligible to enter the professional tier, where there are five pay grades. Professional level teachers would also be eligible for renewable contracts.
In order to reach professional teacher status educators would be required to teach for three years and receive a professional endorsement. This endorsement would be based, in part, on effectiveness evaluations developed locally within the districts.
Teachers in the professional rung could also qualify for increased pay based on continued education and excellence in the classroom. Teachers with a bachelor’s degree and 24 additional credits would earn $2,000 more per year while teachers holding a master’s degree would qualify for $3,500 more per year. Teachers who had proven themselves to be the best and brightest and had worked as a teacher for at least eight years could qualify for a master premium, which would amount to an extra $4,000 per year.
“This is meant to award those super star teachers, or groups of teachers, that are getting tremendous results in the classroom.” said Whitney.
The career ladder plan also outlines a system for the review of the evaluation measures upon which teacher salary increases would be based. These reviews, conducted by State Department of Education appointed personnel, would examine a random sample of evaluations in order to ensure statewide standards for education and achievement were being met.
According to a recent report from the National Education Association only two states in the nation, Mississippi and South Dakota, rank below Idaho in average public school teacher salary. Senator Dean Mortimer (R-Idaho Falls), who sponsored the bill on the floor, characterized the dire situation that Idaho’s K-12 schools face.
“According to the Idaho State Department of Education the total number of certified teachers in Idaho has dropped by 1,259 teachers in the last six years,” said Mortimer, “The number of students in Idaho schools however has increased by 14,481… the number of students has increased by about 5 percent while the number of teachers has decreased by 7 percent.”
Mortimer also cited a survey conducted by Idaho State University Assistant Professor, Dr. Patti Mortinsen: “27 of 54 districts left positions unfilled and increased class size. 22 of 55 districts cancelled classes or programs because of lack of teaching professionals. 23 of 55 districts started the school year with a substitute teacher while hoping to make a permanent hire.”