Fewer Idaho teachers applied for the final round of financial bonuses intended to reward the state’s highest performing veteran educators.
During the application period last month, 653 teachers applied for the master educator premiums, State Board of Education spokesman Mike Keckler said. That’s down from 1,397 applications last year.
The premiums are a $4,000 per year reward that is renewable for three years, bringing the total value to $12,000 for a successful applicant.
The Legislature passed a law that discontinues the premium program, meaning this is the final year of applicants that will be eligible for the premium.
The idea was to replace the premiums, which faced a rocky rollout and criticism from teachers last year, with a new pay level on the state’s career ladder salary allocation.
The class of new applicants is smaller than the inaugural class of teachers that applied during the first year of the program in 2019. Last year, the state approved 1,307 of 1,397 applications yielding a 94 percent approval rate.
At one point, state officials estimated 8,000 to 10,000 educators would meet the minimum eligibility criteria. That means thousands of teachers who were eligible did not apply for the premiums.
In order to earn a premium, educators had to meet service requirements, complete a lengthy portfolio application and evidence documenting mastery.
Some educators said the application process was too cumbersome and turned teachers off. Some educators reported spending 80-120 hours completing the applications. Top educators, including 2019 Teacher of the Year Marc Beitia and 2017 NEA Horace Mann Award winner Sonia Galaviz, did not apply for the premiums last year.
Before premiums can be awarded, State Board staff members are reviewing about 200 applications for portfolio evaluators who will review and score the applications.
“We plan to notify applicants by early August whether they will or will not receive the premium,” Keckler said. “There will be an appeals process, too.”
Even though the Legislature is phasing out the premium program, teachers who earned the premium this year and last will receive it for the full three years.