BOISE – Something rare emerged in the Idaho Legislature on Friday: consensus on a major teacher pay bill.
Teachers, school districts, lawmakers and state officials all backed the new plan, the third version proposed in the past two weeks, saying it will boost Idaho teacher pay and begin alleviating a crisis in attracting and keeping teachers in the state.
“It’s been a long and challenging process to get to this point, but it’s nice to be here,” Robin Nettinga, executive director of the Idaho Education Association, told the House Education Committee. “You spent hours listening to teachers last week.”
The bill, HB 296, will increase state spending on teacher pay every year for the next five years, with next year’s boost at $33.5 million. Teachers would qualify for the raises by meeting performance standards along with factors including experience and additional education, and additional premiums could be earned for leadership and for “master” teachers.
Final amounts paid to teachers are determined by school districts, but the law specifies the amount that districts would be provided by the state; that amount would go up, for teachers at every level, each year for the next five years.
Idaho’s minimum teacher salary is now $31,750, and a third of the state’s teachers have been stuck at that level for years. By the end of the five-year phase-in, the minimum would be $37,000. An experienced teacher who’s now at the minimum would get 4.5 percent more in state funding next year to hit $33,200, and by the end of the five years would be up to $44,375; a master’s degree would bump that up to $47,875.
Don Coberly, Boise School District superintendent, said, “For nearly eight years, the debate about public education in Idaho has been rancorous and divisive.” But now, he said, “We believe that the product is a bill, HB 296, that has the potential to not only change the discussion about education but the direction for our schools, our teachers and our students.”
He praised lawmakers for backing away from requirements to use student test scores as part of teachers’ evaluations, which he said research shows is “ill-advised.”
Nettinga said key changes in the final bill from the teachers’ perspective include that teachers will be involved in discussions on how the new pay system works, and “teachers will not be held accountable for things that are out of their control.”
Others speaking in favor of the bill included Gov. Butch Otter; House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill; lawmakers from both parties; and representatives of the state associations of school boards, school administrators and rural schools.
The state will have to spend about $125 million more on teacher salaries over the next five years under the bill, compared to staying with current law.
Local journalism is essential.
The journalists of The Spokesman-Review are a part of the community. They live here. They work here. They care. You can help keep local journalism strong right now with your contribution. Thank you.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.