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Monday, November 11, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Pay disparity hampers teacher retention in small districts

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 18, 2019

Associated Press

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Some smaller Idaho school districts are struggling to retain teachers who are tempted by the bigger paychecks and increased resources offered by larger districts.

Records from the State Department of Education show that 184 teachers have changed school districts in Idaho since the 2014 school year. Many, such as teacher Gregory Egan, switched from a smaller district to a larger one.

“I loved the kids that I was teaching, but I didn’t seem to get as much done as I would have liked to,” Egan told the Post Register.

Egan previously was the 4-H and shop teacher at Clark County Junior/Senior High School in Dubois. Despite teaching at one of the smallest schools in the state, his 4-H chapter was named one of the 10 best in Idaho last year. But ultimately, he said, the resources and the abilities that District 93 offered led to him switching to the Bonneville Joint School District in Idaho Falls over the summer.

Last year, the average base salary for a teacher in Idaho Falls was about $46,700 and the average in the Bonneville School District was roughly $45,800. Base salary averages in the smaller school districts of Clark County, Madison, Ririe, Sugar-Salem and West Jefferson were all at least $4,000 less.

It’s not just the paycheck, said Egan. He was also drawn by improved housing options and the opportunity to access more school resources and activities.

“A bigger school brings more students and the potential for participation in events that you would not be able to do with a small school,” Egan said.

Idaho’s school districts aren’t only competing with each other to retain their staff. Teton School District loses most of its teachers across the state line to Teton County School District in Wyoming where the average base salary was $73,000 last year and the state had no income tax.

To help increase what the district can pay teachers, Teton County residents have repeatedly voted to approve supplemental levies for the district. The levy has been renewed six times since it was first passed in 2008 and has provided an additional $19.6 million to District 401. Teton was the only school district in eastern Idaho last year with a higher average base salary than Idaho Falls at $47,500.

Teton School District Spokeswoman Jeanne Anderson said those supplemental levies have allowed the district to try to be competitive.

“If we only had the base number of positions that the state funds and paid them without the supplemental levy, we would not be able to stay competitive,” Anderson said.

Teacher retention has been a major issue of concern among Idaho’s school districts and was a major talking point for the education taskforce put together by Gov. Brad Little this year. Several members of the taskforce were concerned that the disparate pay between districts have turned some of the smaller districts into pipelines that supplied their best teachers to bigger cities.

The education task force has recommended that the Legislature boost Idaho’s teacher “career ladder” – a program that aims to increase teacher pay based on an educator’s experience level – by increasing salaries for experienced teachers to between $50,000 and $60,000.

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