House speaker will ensure teacher raises come with accountability

House Speaker Scott Bedke said lawmakers are not receiving the accountability they expect to go along with teacher raises and the career ladder salary law.

During the Associated Press’ annual legislative preview Friday, Bedke told reporters that the entire career ladder was built around using teacher evaluations as a form of accountability to justify the state’s investment in raises.

However, Bedke emphasized that the controversy surrounding teacher evaluations should not stand between teachers and another round of raises.

“That still doesn’t change the fact we have to have a robust accountability component within the career ladder, as per the original plan,” said Bedke, R-Oakley. “So I will be urging our chair of education and that committee to make sure that is in place.”

Speaker of the House Scott Bedke
House Speaker Scott Bedke

Passed in 2015, the career ladder is the Legislature’s approximately $250 million plan to raise teacher pay and improve recruitment and retention.

Since June 2015, Idaho Education News has documented inaccuracies and irregularities within the evaluations system — from some administrators falsely reporting to the state that every single teacher earned an identical overall evaluation score to other administrators entering their own data incorrectly.

In December, Idaho EdNews used a public records request to publish for the first time an independent review of evaluations that Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra had not released or shared with policymakers.

Members of both political parties sharply criticized Ybarra for not releasing the controversial audit sooner. She had received it in July.

“I was disappointed the data was sat on for months, but it came out and so there we are,” Bedke said. “I’m not looking back, I’m looking forward. The career ladder depends on an accountability component, and I want to make darn good and sure that it is in there.”

Rep. Mat Erpelding
Rep. Mat Erpelding

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said he was on the exact same page as Bedke.

“It probably was an enormous mistake to sit on that data for as long as it was sat on,” Erpelding said.

Bedke joined Gov. Butch Otter, House Education Committee Chairwoman Julie VanOrden and Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer in backing new raises for teachers this year.

“The career ladder calls for using the accountability component to base movement on this ladder on favorable evaluations in the previous years,” Bedke said. “If that is not up and in place, then the career ladder has a problem. I don’t think these problems are insurmountable, and I don’t think these problems are going to amount to us not funding the $58 million (for teacher raises) that was referenced earlier.”

Lawmakers also stood up for educators, with Bedke saying “we have got to quit jerking the teachers around here.”