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Luna would restore 1.67% to teacher base pay, but not increase it

State schools Supt. Tom Luna told lawmakers he’s proposing a 1.67 percent increase in base salaries for teachers, and a $500 increase in the minimum teacher salary to $31,000. That 1.67 percent is the amount that was removed from state funds for teacher pay by the “Students Come First” laws, to reroute it to the reform programs; this proposal restores the funds back  to teacher pay. Luna said restoring that puts pressure on the minimum salary, thus his proposed $500 increase.

Idaho’s minimum teacher salary has been cut along with school budgets in recent years; in2008-09,it peaked at $31,750, so this boost still doesn’t bring it back up to that level.

Luna said last year’s school budget included “an unprecedented increase in overall teacher compensation,” though most of it came in the now-discontinued teacher merit pay bonus plan that was included in the voter-rejected “Students Come First” reforms. “The fact is that every penny went to Idaho’s teachers and educators,” Luna said.

“As state superintendent, I believe it must remain in compensation for Idaho’s teachers,” he said. He noted that even “in good economic times,” lawmakers approved only a 3 percent teacher pay increase in 2008 and 2 percent in 2009. “Even in the best of times, we never saw the 5.8 percent increase in total compensation that we saw last year through a combination of salary grid, minimum salary and statewide differentiated compensation plan,” Luna said.  “I’m still convinced the only way we can continue to see this unprecedented amount of funding going to teacher compensation is if the state develops a differentiated compensation plan for teacher educators, similar to what other agencies have in place today.” He said he’s looking toward “not only paying Idaho’s teachers better, but paying them differently.”

Whatever that plan may be, it’ll be different than the one voters repealed, Luna said. “I’m comfortable with that,” he said. “I’m comfortable working with the members of the task force and the Legislature … so that we can work together to make sure every penny continues to go to educators.”

He said, “In reality it all comes down to this, this one thing: How many of our children will be ready to prosper when they are adults?” He said when it comes to improving schools, “Some insist more money’s the answer, others insist it’s more accountability. I suspect the answer is somewhere in the middle.”

He said, “If a leader is not willing to risk his or her political future on bold ideas, they will never bring forth the solutions that will solve he most important issues of our day. The most important issue of our day for our children is will they or won’t they be prepared when they leave high school for the world that awaits them.” 

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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