Task force members discuss career ladder

Members of the state’s education reform task force are brainstorming a career ladder program to raise salaries for beginning teachers and veteran teachers alike.

The plan would increase the starting teacher salary to $40,000, a 29 percent increase from current $31,000.

Teachers at the top of the salary grid would be in line for a similar 29 percent increase — from $46,537 to $60,000.

Teachers also would be eligible for “leadership awards” that would further boost pay.

The cost of the plan: $35 million to $43 million a year for the first five years. This translates to about 3 percent of the current general fund budget for K-12.

The task force’s fiscal stability subcommittee drew up the proposal, and task force members discussed it during a meeting and conference call Friday.

A written presentation on the plan — posted online at the State Board of Education’s website — makes a detailed sales pitch for a career ladder. Among the talking points:

  • In most districts, teachers would be able to earn higher salaries than they can earn now.
  • Idaho teacher pay would be more in line with private sector jobs, and teaching jobs in other states.
  • Since advancement would be based on evaluations, a career ladder would create “a teacher compensation system with greater accountability and emphasis on effectiveness.”
  • The leadership awards would allow districts to fund “robust, effective and meaningful teacher mentoring programs.”

It’s unclear where the proposal will go from here. Subcommittee chairman Rob Winslow, executive director of the Idaho Association of School Administrators, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Nor could Linda Clark — a subcommittee member and superintendent of the Meridian School District.

But the last word doesn’t belong to the subcommittee — nor to the entire 31-member task force, which is scheduled to reconvene Aug. 23. The task force hopes to pass on several proposals to Gov. Butch Otter, in advance of the 2014 legislative session.

  • Ed DePriest

    I think that this is a great idea. Presently, educators take classes, often marginally relative to their subject matter, simply to advance on the pay scale. Often, the cost of books and tuition is barely covered in the step increases on the scale.
    Pay the teachers for effective performances based on administrative observations and evaluations. Continuing education will always be a part of effective teaching, but not the only criteria by which to advance.
    In the majority of fields, people earn raises through effective performance. I think that this idea would stimulate those who may be, for lack of a better term, “stale” or “burnt out.” The only issue that I can see initially, is the sometimes present personality conflict between administrator and teacher, where an administrator may not rate a particular teacher high enough for an increase based on issues outside of the classroom performance.
    Most businesses have human resource departments of some kind and it is not uncommon for compensation to be negotiated at the time of hire and periodically when initiated by either the employer or the employee. I like the idea.

  • Senator Branden Durst

    I am very skeptical about this proposal. On the surface, the compensation looks fantastic, but what happens when funding is cut for whatever reason? I assume that if a teacher were to take this pathway, they would be giving up their rights to collectively bargain. In the case of a cut, they would have no recourse to protect themselves because the contract would be year to year, rather than continuing. In the near-term, when funds are available, this is great, but I do have serious doubts about the long-term viability of the plan.

  • Adam Collins

    The question is what is the tradeoff? In this Republican-dominated state, the road to higher pay for public service employees rests on eliminating their rights to negotiate. Additionally, what safeguards are in place so that a teacher does not move backward on the salary schedule? Lastly, as posted above, what would prevent a school administrator from giving a teacher a poor evaluation due to their disagreement with their race, religion, political affiliation, etc. Granted, many of these categories are protected by federal law, but this is Idaho, and proving malicious intent in this state is nearly impossible. There is no doubt but that many school administrators would use this to harm the teachers they don’t personally like. What is in this proposal to prevent such a travesty?

  • Ed DePriest

    What collective bargaining rights? When a school board can impose their last offer, their is no real leverage for the teachers side. School boards can “negotiate,” but they hold all of the cards now. What happens when there are funding cuts now? It gets passed along in the form of furlough days, or some other reductions. No matter how funded, if there is only X amount of dollars, that money will be parceled and distributed, whether a pay grid or performance based.

  • Kevin S. Wilson

    Meh. Yet another warmed-over version of Props 1 and 2. Yet another maneuver to bring about an end to “tenure,” along with a return to merit pay and “leadership” bonuses. No doubt the merit pay will be based largely on scores on standardized tests, with parental and student evaluations thrown in for good measure.

    I’m curious about whose fingerprints are on this proposal. Who comprises the fiscal stability subcommittee?

  • Adam Collins

    Actually, upon further consideration, there is very little to worry about. The Republicans in the legislature will never agree to pay teachers an acceptable wage. Discussion of this career ladder is pointless, as they will continue to shortchange education, more teachers will leave the profession, and the best and brightest will be repelled from teaching in Idaho due the actions of Butch Otter, Tom Luna, and the Republican stooges in the legislature.

  • Vicki Stevenson

    This is bad news for teachers. It is another smoke screen. It is worse than the luna laws we rejected. The sad thing is that so many teachers are at a point where they are desperate to make ends meet that they may be tempted by this garbage. What if an administrator has an especially talented staff and believes every teacher in the school is distinguished? Will the state allow that? Does this force the district to divide its teachers into meaningless tiers with arbitrary dividing lines? Will all the teachers of a school labeled “failing” be in the bottom tier? Will schools fall into pay based on socioeconomics? That is exactly what happened the one year we had merit pay.

    Nampa School District is doing evaluations based on Danielson and the state also seems to be in love with Danielson. To be given the “distinguished” label, a teacher would have to put in many hours of work documenting everything they believed made them distinguished. A truly distinguished teacher is not willing to put in that many hours just to give themselves that rating. They would rather spend that time doing the things distinguished teachers do (like helping students, planning lessons and grading papers). Even if they put in the time, that didn’t guarantee the rating, admin have to agree. Let’s hope the admin doesn’t have a personality conflict with the teacher! If teacher pay is tied to that label, then that adds a lot of meaningless work to a teacher’s day. Work that no teacher has time for if they are actually a distinguished teacher. This just guarantees that no teacher will be in the top tier. Which I imagine is the plan in the first place.

  • Kevin Case

    I must admit that I share in the skepticism posted in these comments already. I recently (July 17) attended a meeting in Jerome led by Rep. Lance Clow where he laid out some of the specifics of the “career ladder.” There is a substantial amount of relevant information here. http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/board_initiatives/Education_Improvement_Taskforce/07-12-13/index.asp
    Adam, in answer to your question there is a very substantial trade-off, and in response to Ed’s comment it actually goes far beyond loss of collective bargaining. If you follow the link I posted and click “Idaho Teacher Career Ladder”, you will find the trade off in pages 6-9 of the pdf. It essentially states that teachers who move to the new career ladder will lose any semblance of tenure they currently have. I am aware that teachers don’t exactly have “full” tenure now in the state of Idaho; I simply mean that it would be much easier to get rid of an existing teacher on the new career ladder without a renewing contract.
    Also, if you click “Teacher Licensure” under the link I posted there is proposed method of changing teacher certification requirements that also accompanies the new career ladder. As you can see from the chart on page 10, while there is potential for rapid advancement, there is also no protection whatsoever from moving backwards. And it is logical to assume that if teacher pay is increased by such a substantial percentage when the state has “extra” money, it will be one of the first things to go when we fall on harder economic times. My main concern here is that while I could see the state cutting pay/funding without hesitation, I doubt that they would be willing to adjust these new expectations to accompany the reduction in pay.

  • sharon fisher

    This is nice. Now, how’s it going to be paid for? Or is it just another song and dance where the state department of education throws up its hands and says, oh well, we tried, it’s just those darn legislators?