House Ed advances teacher leadership awards

The House Education Committee took a first step Monday toward transitioning to a career ladder form of teacher pay by approving $15.9 million in leadership awards.

Rep. Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree

Under House Bill 504, teachers would be able to receive awards – which lawmakers call premiums – of $850 to $5,780 a year. Local school boards would select recipients who take hard-to-fill positions, teach dual credit courses or teach more than one subject, among other factors.

The sponsors, Reps. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, and Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, said the premiums are designed to pair with a career ladder and tiered licensure system – which is partially on hold this year while a committee reviews the frameworks of such a system.

If the Legislature passes the premiums, this would reduce next year’s costs for the career ladder system from $42.4 million to $26.5 million, according to the bill’s statement of purpose and fiscal note.

The $15.9 million would be part of the educational support program, and premiums would not be subject to the collective bargaining process, according to the seven-page bill.

Committee members labored over the issue for an hour – debating how the program would work, whether the state should hold off until the full career ladder is ready and if there are unintended consequences.

The Idaho Association of School Administrators and the Idaho School Boards Association backed the bill, while Idaho Education Association leaders said they would support it if it is paired with at least a 1 percent increase in teacher base salaries – a request pending before the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridain

“I think every teacher I’ve worked with has served above their contractual obligation,” IEA President Penny Cyr said. “It’s just what we do, it’s our career, it’s our profession and it’s our passion. That’s why we went into education in the first place.”

Only Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, voted against the bill.

Harris – who twice debated against the bill – said he didn’t think the proposed teacher premiums would do anything to reward or retain Idaho’s best and brightest teachers. He said the criteria for the premiums don’t even take into account student achievement or teacher evaluations.

“I’m still curious how this goes to awarding, if you will, that third-grade teacher who wants stay in the classroom for the rest of her career,” Harris said.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said local school boards will establish their own criteria for awarding the premiums – and can include those criteria if they wish. Additionally, if the state implements the full-blown career ladder, teachers’ movement through the tiered licensure system will be based on growth and evaluations.

The $15.9 million price tag is intended to provide every school district with $850 per full time teacher – but not every teacher would receive a merit-based premium.

The legislation next moves to the House floor.


Clark Corbin

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