Building onto Idaho’s career ladder

When legislators approved the teacher career ladder earlier this year, they left some business unfinished.

The first year of the plan bankrolled pay increases for teachers, especially at the low end of Idaho’s salary schedule. But the plan didn’t include the “pupil service” staffers who support classroom teachers and work with at-risk students.

Now, the State Board of Education has drawn up a plan to include pupil service staff under the career ladder — at a first-year cost of $2.6 million.

Here’s a closer look at the details — and the process to date:

Who are pupil service staffers? They fall into six categories: school nurses, audiologists, speech pathologists, psychologists, counselors and social workers.

What happened with the 2015 law? Legislators and stakeholders spent nearly the entire 2015 session hammering out a compromise on the teacher career ladder. That law didn’t provide raises for pupil service staffers, but it didn’t entirely ignore them. A clause required the state to add pupil service staff to the career ladder by 2016.

It’s not that simple, however. Shoehorning pupil service professionals into a pay raise plan designed for classroom teachers would make for a “messy scenario,” State Board spokesman Blake Youde said.

What happened after the 2015 session? The State Board put together a working group representing the six pupil service staffer categories. Their job was to come up with a blueprint to allow for raises based on student growth and achievement, the yardsticks of the teacher career ladder.

How would these raises work? Districts could award raises to pupil service staff based on the existing criteria in the career ladder law. However, districts could also use a new and not-yet-defined category known as “student success indicators.” Districts will get to draw up these criteria — which could include anything from student attendance to performance in relation to a student’s individualized education program.

What’s the long-term cost? Over four years, it will cost about $12.4 million to boost pupil service staff pay.

Relatively speaking, this is a small piece of the larger career ladder plan. In 2015-16, the first year of the teacher career ladder cost $33.5 million, and state superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s proposed budget for 2016-17 recommends $40 million to $41 million in additional teacher pay.

What happens next? The State Board has endorsed the career ladder expansion, but legislators must approve it as well. The State Board will draw up a bill for the 2016 session.