East Idaho educators voice concerns over teacher salary changes

IDAHO FALLS — East Idaho educators are voicing more concerns over new state laws addressing teacher salaries. 

One change has fueled “confusion galore” and “distrust” among some educators, said Blackfoot School District Superintendent Brian Kress. 

As the State Department of Education rounded out its post-legislative tour Wednesday, with a stop in Idaho Falls, two laws from the 2019 session dominated the discussion.

The minimum salary law 

The first, House Bill 153, raises Idaho’s minimum teacher salary to $40,000 over the next two years.

The law also condenses Idaho’s current career salary schedule from 10 professional levels or “rungs” to five. It also moves some educators from one rung to another:

  • Teachers in professional levels 1 and 2 move to professional level 2.
  • Teachers in professional levels 3 and 4 move to professional level 3.
  • Teachers in professional levels 5 and 6 move to professional level 4. 
  • Teachers in professional levels 7 through 10 move to professional level 5.

Despite the changes, the state will pay out a higher funding apportionment for all professional-level educators. 

But Kress said some Blackfoot teachers in levels 4, 5 and 6 had expected to move into the new model’s level 5, which provides the state’s maximum $50,000 apportionment.

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The state’s apportionment in levels three and four still represent an increase, to $46,250 and $48,125, respectively. But for some educators hoping to hit the $50,000 maximum, the new law is a letdown, Kress said. 

Tim Hill, the SDE’s deputy superintendent for public school finance, acknowledged the possibility for confusion, but stressed funding increases across all salary levels. 

“The bottom line is there was no reduction in the appropriations,” Hill told Idaho Education News after the meeting. 

Funding formula ‘definitions’

Confusion surrounds House Bill 293, an attempt to standardize definitions and add school reporting requirements as a possible precursor to a new state K-12 funding model.

Some education officials say the Legislature created a second minimum salary requirement through the law — even though legislators have gone on the record saying this wasn’t their intention.

HB 293 defines a local salary schedule. Here’s the problematic language: “Minimum compensation under a local salary schedule shall be at least equal to $38,500, or, for staff holding a professional endorsement, $42,500.”

The issue dominated discussion during a similar SDE meeting in Boise on Monday. Hill walked educators through the confusion Wednesday and pointed out that the Idaho School Boards Association is advising districts to pay out according to HB 293.

“(W)e believe the safest course of action is to comply with the definitions in salary in House Bill 293,” ISBA policy and government affairs director Quinn Perry told Idaho Education News Monday. “There could be a risk of a wage-claims dispute in not paying the $42,500.”

Hill agreed with Perry’s assessment.

“I don’t know why you wouldn’t do that,” he said after Wednesday’s meeting.

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