Why school budget increases haven’t translated into teacher pay raises

States have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into K-12 spending increases, but that hasn’t translated into teacher pay raises.

Education Week’s Daarel Burnette II looked into the numbers in a recent article. A key statistic: In 39 states, the average teacher salary declined between 2010 and 2016, when adjusted for inflation.

Idaho saw drops both in inflation-adjusted and actual salaries; only seven states had a drop in actual salaries. However, Idaho’s average salary has increased by more than 12 percent since 2015, with the passage of the career ladder teacher pay law.

So, what happened to the money that went into K-12? In many cases, administrators across the nation eschewed across-the-board raises, Burnette wrote. Instead, they opted to hire additional teachers, fill positions that went dark during the recession or pay down pension obligations.

“In the vast majority of states, new money that comes from the state is mostly subject to district officials’ discretion,” Burnette wrote.

Which, again, loops back to Idaho.

In the next few days, key lawmakers plan to unveil a bill to rewrite Idaho’s school funding formula, for the first time in a quarter of a century.

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One sticking point is whether to eliminate line items that put K-12 dollars into specific initiatives — folding that money into the new formula and allowing schools to spend that money as they see fit. The largest line item, this year, is $761 million dedicated to funding the career ladder; education lobbying groups and some local officials are pushing to leave that line item intact.

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