House Education passes teacher salary bill

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The House Education Committee passed a five-year teacher salary bill Friday on the strength of unanimous support from education groups.

Lawmakers, state officials and education groups had been engaged in a deep debate over teacher salaries and accountability throughout the session, with two previous versions of the career ladder salary bill being shelved due to opposition.

The career ladder creates two rungs of pay for teachers and incorporates financial incentives for teachers who continue their education and meet a series of state and local performance benchmarks.

If the plan is signed into law, state funding for teacher salaries would be ramped up each year through the 2019-20 school year. At that point, salary levels would break down as follows:

  • Residency teachers in their first three years in the profession: $37,000 to $39,000.
  • Professional teachers with more than three years service: $42,500 to $50,000.

Next year, minimum teacher salaries would increase from the current level of $31,750 to $32,700, a 3 percent increase. Teachers now earning the $31,750 would take home $33,200 next year, a raise of about 4.5 percent.

Using one state estimate, the career ladder would increase funding for salaries by an additional $125.5 million over the next five years. That estimate is calculated by ignoring the career ladder and instead incorporating a 3 percent raise for teachers next year (in line with other state employees) coupled with a 1 percent enrollment increase. For years two through five, that estimate would include 1 percent raises and 1 percent enrollment growth.

Under the career ladder, teacher salaries would still be negotiated annually between school district leaders and local education unions or bargaining agents, just as today.

All Idaho teachers with three or more years of experience would enter the career ladder at the professional rung next year, and would not need to worry about advancing from the residency tier. For example, a teacher with between four and nine years of experience now would enter the ladder at the bottom of the profession rung. Next year, that teacher would earn $35,498. For 2016-17, this teacher’s pay would jump to $38,758, representing a raise of more than 9 percent.

The following year, this same teacher would earn $41,155, earning another raise of about 6.2 percent.

On Friday everyone who testified before the committee supported the career ladder, including leaders of the Idaho Education Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators, Idaho School Boards Association, Idaho Rural Schools Association and the Boise Independent School District.

The IEA had been a leading opponent of the proposal, but changed its tone this week as negotiations continued and more revisions were made to the bill.

IEA Executive Director Robin Nettinga said the union supports the new bill because educators and administrators will be involved in decisions related to their pay and not held accountable for factors that are outside their control. She also praised lawmakers and state officials for including teachers in negotiations over the bill.

“It has been a long, challenging process to get to this point, but it’s nice to be here,” Nettinga said. “We are deeply appreciative to have had the opportunity to work with you on this legislaton. We are humbled by the honest, open respectful dialogue we had.”

Boise Superintendent Don Coberly said the collaborative process used to refine the career ladder stood in stark opposition to the “rancorous and divisive” debate over public education that played out over the previous eight years.

“(This) has the potential to not only change the discussion about education, but the direction of our schools, teachers and our students,” Coberly said.

Passing out of the committee was just the first hurdle for the new salary proposal, one that wasn’t cleared until the 68th day of the legislative session.

The bill next heads to the House floor for full consideration. If the bill clears the full House, it will be sent to the Senate, where the process will essentially start over with a committee hearing and floor vote.

On Friday afternoon, Joint Finance-Approrpriations Committee Co-chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, said budget writers will wait to see if the career ladder clears the full Senate before resuming work on next year’s school budget.

“The minute it passes the Senate we are ready to move,” Bell said. “This is such an important bill with so much money in it we would be foolish to get in the middle of it.”

“We should be at work by Thursday I would hope,” she added. “We’ve kept the money we know the bottom line, we just didn’t know quite how to place their money.”

Click here to read the entire 34-page bill.