Idaho’s top teacher expresses concerns with master educator premiums

Idaho’s reigning teacher of the year expressed concerns Tuesday with a new salary incentive designed to reward Idaho’s best teachers.

Marc Beitia was honored by State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra as Idaho’s 2019 Teacher of the Year.

Marc Beitia, who teaches at American Falls High School, said busy teachers don’t have 80 to 120 hours to fill out an application portfolio. State Board of Education officials said they’ve heard it has taken that much time to apply for one of Idaho’s new master educator premiums.

“In my teaching schedule, I don’t have 120 hours to dedicate to a portfolio for $4,000 a year. Somebody who had a different schedule might,” said Beitia, who also serves as American Falls’ mayor. “If you’re a full classroom teacher and perhaps a coach, 120 hours is pretty valuable whether it’s with your family or wherever.”

Beitia made his comments during a subcommittee meeting of Gov. Brad Little’s K-12 task force, “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future.”

During a break in the meeting, Beitia told Idaho Education News he did not apply for a premium.

Although the portfolios may be time-consuming, he said the self-reflection involved in creating them could benefit many educators — even if tweaks and adjustments could improve the process and the program.

The Legislature created the master educator premiums in 2015. This year, the Legislature approved $7.2 million for the premiums. Teachers can earn the $4,000 a year for up to three years.

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On Monday, the State Board reported that 1,405 Idaho educators applied for the premiums by the July 5 deadline. Those who receive a premium will be notified next month.

Because 8,000 to 10,000 educators likely met the minimum requirements for the premium, it appears that thousands of eligible teachers, such as  Beitia, simply did not apply.

Moscow district Superintendent Greg Bailey agreed with Beitia’s concerns.

“The staff that filled out applications are not my top, top staff members,” Bailey said during the task force meeting. “(Beitia’s) right. The top staff members are the ones that don’t have 80 hours, 100 hours to give to fill out the documents.”

Because teachers who earn the premiums receive them for three years, the total value of the premium would total $12,000 so long as a teacher doesn’t retire or leave their position.

If a teacher took 120 hours to fill out an application, and successfully received the premium for three years, he or she would receive $100 per hour for the time spent on the application. Of course, the risk is that teachers could invest that time on a portfolio and not receive a premium.

Two legislators at the meeting — House Education Committee Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, and Sen. Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls — also voiced concerns with the new program.

Clow pointed out the premiums came out of a desire to reward, recognize and retain Idaho’s best teachers. But Clow said his own daughter is an Idaho teacher who may well have qualified for a premium but, like Beitia, did not apply.

“I’m somewhat of the opinion the master educator premium needs to be rolled out in the third rung of the career ladder,” Clow said.

The career ladder is the state’s system to send money to school districts and charters for teacher pay. Educators do not need to apply or fill out any additional paperwork to receive money under the career ladder, although they must met certain criteria to jump from one rung to another and earn higher pay in the process.

Lent suggested the flaw with the premiums is they are time-consuming, and reward veteran teachers with something they might not find as valuable as recognition, additional support or the opportunity for self-reflection or the ability to improve their craft.

“If we can rethink the model it may be a much better program and more sustainable,” Lent said.

The next full meeting of the “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force is set for Aug. 1 in Moscow. On July 16, the task force’s educator pipeline committee is scheduled to meet in Boise.

 

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