February 20, 2008 in Idaho

Teacher merit pay plan outlined

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 

BOISE – Coeur d’Alene Sen. John Goedde unveiled a new teacher merit pay plan Tuesday, along with another bill to “streamline” teacher firings.

Goedde, the Senate Education Committee chairman, told his committee that he’s been working closely with the Idaho Education Association on the new proposals, though IEA officials said they still oppose the versions Goedde unveiled.

“I’m not going to suggest that what we have here meets all their concerns, but I think it’s a huge step toward the center,” Goedde said.

Earlier, Goedde’s committee held four days of well-attended hearings on another teacher merit pay plan proposed by state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, called the Idaho State Teacher Advancement and Recognition System, or iSTARS. An alternate proposal from IEA is called “WeTeach.”

Luna’s iSTARS plan took heavy criticism for proposing that teachers give up tenure in exchange for higher pay.

That proposal is missing from the new bill, which Goedde dubbed “iSTARS Lite.” But the bill keeps versions of three iSTARS provisions for performance pay for teachers, saying teachers could get annual bonuses of up to $1,200 for student test scores, for teaching in hard-to-fill positions, and for taking on leadership duties.

Luna said he backs the plan, which would total $20.55 million next year.

Sherri Wood, IEA president, said the teachers group still opposes basing teacher pay on Idaho Standards Achievement Test scores, because “there’s just so much more to a public education than one test,” and opposes limiting bonuses to a small group of teachers rather than making them available to all who are eligible. Ten percent of teachers in any district could get the hard-to-fill positions bonuses under the new bill, and 25 percent could get the test scores bonuses.

“When you talk to educators, they want to know that what we are going to do will help students succeed,” Wood said. “We don’t see that in iSTARS Lite – there’s no professional development.”

As for the other bill, Wood said the IEA gave Goedde a proposal to streamline the teacher termination process, but it’s been substantially changed. Goedde, however, said he’s hoping to reach a compromise with the IEA shortly on that and amend the bill. Goedde said he thinks the pay bill will pass only if it’s accompanied by the streamlined-firings bill.

The Senate Education Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to refer the two bills to the State Affairs Committee for introduction, with the idea that they’ll return to the education committee for a hearing.

Luna said, “I think it’s a good first step, so that finally we’re going to have pay for performance for our teachers in Idaho.”

He said the plan fits into his revised public school budget proposal for a 1 percent base pay increase for all teachers in addition to the performance-based bonuses, a 3 percent pay increase for classified school employees, a 1 percent pay increase for school administrators, and a $500 increase in the state’s minimum teacher salary, which now stands at $31,000 a year.

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