Breaking down Idaho’s ‘teacher-friendly’ rankings

According to a personal finance website, Idaho is the 12th best state in the nation to be a teacher.

Let’s take a closer look at the survey, and the results.

First off, what is Based in Washington, D.C., touts itself as “the Web’s best personal finance resource.” Wallethub calls itself “a one-stop destination for all the tools and information consumers and small business owners need to make better financial decisions and save money.”

What about the No. 12 ranking? It’s a mixed bag, because the site ranks the states on two broad categories.

What’s the good news? The site ranks Idaho No. 3 for what it calls “opportunity and competition.” That includes criteria such as average starting and annual salaries, adjusted for cost of living; 10-year trends in teacher pay; and projected number of teachers per capita in 2022. Wallethub emphasized “opportunity and competition” in its rankings. “Because competitive salaries and job security are integral to a well-balanced personal and professional life, we assigned a heavier weight to the ‘opportunity and competition’ category.”

What’s the bad news? Idaho ranked No. 38 for its “academic and work environment.” That includes categories such as student-to-teacher ratio, school rankings and per-capita school spending. For example, Wallethub ranks Idaho No. 51 in per-capita spending. Idaho tends to rank near the bottom in this category, ranking No. 50 in a recent Census Bureau report.

Who’s No. 1? That’s neighboring and oil- and natural gas-rich Wyoming, buoyed by high salaries and high per-capita spending.

Who’s No. 51? North Carolina.

What are the reactions? Gov. Butch Otter’s campaign seized on the report Tuesday. “I appreciate the results of this survey because I want our teachers to know we value them. That being said, I want Idaho to be an even better state for teachers.” Otter touted his education task force’s recommendations to boost teacher pay — a plan tied to a controversial licensing plan opposed by the Idaho Education Association.

Reactions on the governor’s Facebook page were less flattering. Said one tongue-in-cheek commenter: “It’s on the internet, it must be true.”

What are other people saying? Washington Post education writer Valerie Strauss took a skeptical view of the findings. She said the study failed to consider several other metrics, such as job protections for teachers and the “overall impact of corporate-based school reform.”

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