Chief Joseph Elementary

Gov. Brad Little and Maggie Dykzeul, parent volunteer, work with students in Ali Huber's first-grade classroom at Chief Joseph School of the Arts on Feb. 21. 

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BOISE — A bill to boost starting teacher pay in Idaho to $40,000 a year over the next two years is heading to Gov. Brad Little's desk.

The Idaho Senate voted 33-0 Tuesday to pass the bill. It passed the House already two weeks ago.

The bill would increase the pay of teachers on the lowest three “residency” rungs of the state’s teacher pay scale, raising the lowest rung to $38,500 a year in 2019-2020 and $40,000 in 2020-2021. It would cost the state $3.8 million next year and $7.7 million the year after that.

"The support of the Legislature sends a message to our teachers that we value them and the education they provide for Idaho’s children," Little tweeted shortly after the vote.

Idaho has some of the lowest teacher pay in the country and many districts struggle to hire and keep teachers. Little frequently promised during last year's campaign that he would raise teachers' starting pay to $40,000 a year, and the bill to do so is one of the major initiatives of his first year in office.

"We're struggling to keep our teachers," said Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls. "Particularly for those first five to eight years (of their careers). As many of you know, this is a goal of (Little's) and his vision of elevating and retaining those teachers."

Sen. Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls, a former Idaho Falls District 91 school board member, said the district struggled to keep experienced teachers, which is a problem for the quality of education.

"The effectiveness of our teaching staff really comes as they develop their careers and they learn more," he said.

Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, said Idaho hires 2,000 new teachers a year but only 1,800 people graduate from Idaho schools with teaching degrees every year. And of that 1,800, she said, 30 percent don’t stay in Idaho.

“We need to try to entice that 30 percent to stay here and not go someplace else,” she said.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.

This article originally ran on idahostatejournal.com.

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