March 6, 2008 in Idaho

Idaho revamps teacher pay plan

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 

BOISE – In a rare move, the Idaho Legislature’s joint budget committee Wednesday reconsidered the teacher pay plan it approved a day earlier, passing an entirely new plan. This time, it was unanimous.

The new plan includes a 2.5 percent base salary increase for teachers and a $750 increase in the minimum teacher salary, to $31,750. It doesn’t shift any money out of teacher pay to fund a program for poor high school kids to take college classes, as did the previous day’s plan.

Gone from the budget is a controversial proposal from Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, to tinker with the state’s salary grid to direct base salary increases only to teachers at the top end of the pay grid.

Bayer said he heard from teachers and others that his plan it was unworkable.

“Basically, this brought to light how the system is broke and needs to be improved,” he said. “So if this forces a paradigm shift, great,” Bayer said.

The new budget includes $50,000 for a task force to create a plan for better teacher evaluations.

Several lawmakers said the work on a teacher evaluation system is important if Idaho is going to develop a merit pay program. The approved budget, which now moves to the full House and Senate, totals $1.4 billion in general funds for public schools next year, a 3.7 percent increase over this year’s budget.

It includes Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna’s proposed $4 million math initiative, which Gov. Butch Otter initially hadn’t recommended funding, and $50,000 for a task force to develop a statewide concurrent enrollment program for high school students to take college classes.

That program would then be brought to the Legislature for consideration next year.

Said Luna: “If you consider what we asked for originally and the financial situation we have found ourselves in, it’s a good budget.”


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