Application season opens for veteran teachers

The State Board of Education is beginning to accept applications for Idaho’s brand-new master educator premium.

And the state hopes to award the money before the next school year starts.

The Legislature approved the three-year, $4,000-a-year premiums in 2015 — as lawmakers passed the career ladder, a five-year plan to boost teacher salaries. But while the career ladder was designed to put money into beginning and low-end salaries, the master premium is earmarked for teachers with at least eight years’ experience.

But first, veteran teachers need to apply for a share of the money. And starting now, they can turn in their portfolios at the State Board’s website. (Click here for a program overview.)

Several questions surround the rollout of the new program.

The first, and one perhaps most important to would-be applicants, is the actual deadline. For some time, the State Board has said it wants portfolios in hand by June 30. But that isn’t a hard-and-fast deadline, said Tracie Bent, the board’s chief planning and policy officer.

The State Board needs to award the premiums in time for local school districts and charters to incorporate the money into the teachers’ 2019-20 salaries. The board hopes to award premiums by early August, so it could take some applications in July.

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Because the state has never awarded the premiums before, no one is sure how many teachers will apply — or qualify.

About 10,000 teachers meet the state’s guidelines: eight years of classroom experience, and at least the past three years in Idaho. The board’s working estimate is that a quarter of these eligible teachers will turn in portfolios, bringing the applicant pool to about 2,500 teachers.

The 2019 Legislature earmarked $7.2 million for year one of the program, which would be enough to fund 1,800 premiums. The State Board and state superintendent Sherri Ybarra have said they will push to provide money to every qualified applicant, withdrawing money from the state’s K-12 budget reserve if necessary.

Meanwhile, the State Board is also lining up teachers to review the portfolios, and reviewing their applications.

About 350 educators have applied as evaluators, Bent said Monday. The board is hoping to line up 500 reviewers, asking each to review about five portfolios apiece. But each evaluator might need to review another portfolio or two, depending on how many teachers and reviewers apply.

Each evaluator will receive a $500 stipend, regardless of their workload.

The review process is anonymous. Evaluators won’t see the applicants’ names, and the state will not release the list of evaluators. And evaluators won’t be asked to review applicants from teachers in their school or region of the state.

“We want to make sure, as much as possible, that there is not any bias in the reviews,” Bent said.

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