Ybarra tables her proposal to boost leadership premiums

A bill to boost Idaho’s classroom “leadership premiums” is dead for 2016.

The State Department of Education has shelved its own proposal to increase the minimum premiums, at a cost of roughly $1 million a year.

The decision comes as legislators are paying more scrutiny to leadership premiums. The 2-year-old program is designed to provide a pay boost to staffers who take on several leadership roles — such as staff mentoring, assuming hard-to-fill jobs or teaching dual-credit classes.

As written, the law is supposed to provide at least an $850 premium to qualified teachers and school staff. The State Department of Education proposed increasing the minimum to $900.

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State superintendent Sherri Ybarra

The department’s Senate Bill 1266 passed the Senate on Feb. 23 a 26-8 vote. The House has taken no action on the bill, and last week, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra said the department has dropped the idea for 2016.

“We decided we weren’t comfortable moving forward with all the questions surrounding this,” Ybarra told the House Education Committee Thursday.

Ybarra made her remarks after House Education grilled department staff with pointed questions about the first year of the $16.7 million leadership program. Lawmakers wondered why some school districts awarded premiums of less than $850 — despite the language in the law. They also wondered why some districts awarded across-the-board premiums, rather than rewarding staffers who took on added responsibilities.

(For more about Thursday’s hearing — and the multitude of math errors in the State Department of Education report — click on our coverage from last week.)

The demise of the leadership premium bill resolves one unanswered question in the 2016-17 K-12 budget. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee passed a K-12 spending plan on Feb. 29, but put several line items on hold. The leadership premium increase was one of the budget item left in limbo.