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Eye On Boise

Thu., Jan. 23, 2014, 9:41 a.m.

Details of pay proposals in the school budget…

JFAC Co-Chair Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, asked state schools Superintendent Tom Luna about his proposal for $16 million in one-time leadership bonuses for teachers next year, asking if that would require legislation. Luna said yes. He said it would follow recommendations from the governor’s education task force. “This would be the first step in transition to a career ladder,” Luna said. “This first step would not require us to alter the grid in any way. … It provides leadership bonuses.”

School districts would decide how to distribute the money, which would go to reward teachers for taking leadership roles such as mentoring other teachers, and helping write curriculum or assessments. Cameron asked how Luna came up with the $16 million figure. Luna aide Jason Hancock said the task force used a formula calculated essentially at $1,000 for every teacher with three or more years of experience. “That’s the formula for getting money out to districts,” Hancock said; districts would then decide how it’s distributed and to whom.

Cameron said, “I think all of us agree that the current system is not adequate to reward and retain our best teachers.” He said there’s lots of excitement about the proposed new career ladder for teachers that the task force recommended. He asked Luna why he’s proposing to start the leadership bonuses first. “Why not wait to roll out the leadership component … with the entire career ladder?” Cameron asked. Luna responded, “If we’re embracing recommendations of the task force, I hope we would embrace them all.” He added, “Doing these leadership bonuses is a step we can take. It’s similar to what we’re doing this year with the $21 million.” The current year’s school budget includes $21 million for one-time leadership bonuses for teachers and professional development. When Gov. Butch Otter left that money out of his proposed budget for next year, Luna called that a $21 million pay cut for teachers.

His revised proposal for next year now calls for the $16 million for the one-time bonuses, along with $6.9 million for permanent teacher raises averaging 1 percent, assuming lawmakers decide to give raises to state employees for the coming year; $2.5 million for 2 percent average raises for classified employees of school districts, such as janitors and lunch servers; and $1.55 million for 2 percent average raises for administrative employees, who wouldn’t share in the leadership bonuses.

Overall, that comes to just under $23 million for increased teacher pay; Luna’s original budget proposal in the fall called for putting $42 million into starting up the career ladder, but it’s not yet been developed. While Luna’s revised budget proposal has less for teacher raises, it has more for restoring past cuts to school operational funds, at $35 million, matching the governor’s recommendation, up from Luna’s original proposal for $16.5 million.

Luna’s revised budget proposal for public schools for next year reflects a 5.1 percent increase in state general funds, or a $66.9 million increase. Otter’s calls for a 2.9 percent increase of about $37 million.

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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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