IEA fights task force licensure details

The state’s largest teachers’ association is pushing back against a reworked teacher licensure system — a recommendation that received unanimous support from an education reform task force last August.

Penni Cyr
Penni Cyr

Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr said her organization opposes tying a teacher’s statewide license to evaluations performed at the school district level.

Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education unanimously approved recommendations for a tiered teacher licensure system. A related proposal would increase educators’ salaries to $40,000, $50,000 or $60,000 based on movement between the three-tiered licensure system.

Cyr and IEA representatives from Meridian, Sandpoint and Pocatello all voted for the tiered licensure and career ladder when the task force recommendations were approved Aug. 23.

While the IEA opposes tying licensure to local evaluations, Cyr said her group has not changed its position.

“The IEA strongly supports the concept of a career ladder and tiered licensure, but the devil is in the details,” Cyr said.

Tom Luna
Tom Luna

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, who sits with Cyr on at least two committees working to develop tiered licensure, said the IEA is “revisiting history.”

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“We were all surprised at this stage by two things,” Luna said. “One was the 180-degree turn on supporting the task force recommendations and the claim that they support these recommendations in principle, but not in any detail.”

The issue flared up during a May 9 Tiered Licensure Technical Advisory Committee meeting in Boise. Ten minutes into the meeting, Cyr asked to go on record making the point that the evaluation requirement was just one of several ideas contained in multiple presentations made to the task force. Before adopting the task force recommendations, Cyr said the IEA objected to some proposed details in one private meeting, before agreeing to move forward.

“I will submit to this committee it is our job to bring forward to that task force the best recommendations possible, not duplicate a recommendation we didn’t all agree with,” Cyr said.

Her comments appeared to frustrate Luna and Idaho Business for Education President and CEO Rod Gramer.

“I don’t think the people voting that day (on the task force recommendations) were voting just for a concept,” Luna said.

Gramer said he was confused by Cyr’s position, and thought an appeals process being put in place would satisfy her concerns.

This year, the Tiered Licensure Technical Advisory Committee and the State Board of Education’s Education Improvement Committees are working on licensure and pay issues. After months of discussions, the licensure proposal is being built around student growth and individual professional learning plans — and whether a teacher earns two consecutive years of “proficient” scores on an evaluation performed locally by a trained evaluator.

Before adoption, the licensure and career ladder systems must be submitted to the State Board of Education  and, perhaps, to the Legislature.

The new licensure and career ladder system is designed to replace the current salary grid and serve as an incentive to educators. Cyr believes the revamped system could present a deterrent.

“If teachers look at the state of Idaho and see that their license to teach can be taken away by an evaluation of a administrator in their school, versus working in Wyoming or Washington state or Oregon or any other state that doesn’t have that, I don’t believe that we are going to attract them,” Cyr said May 9. “I certainly don’t believe they’re going to stay here with their license.”

Throughout the legislative session, education stakeholder groups worked together and maintained steadfast support of the task force recommendations, which are scheduled to be implemented over roughly five years.

Cyr said her support of the task force hasn’t changed, but Luna wants to avoid a rift.

“Something changed, and it created a situation we haven’t seen throughout the whole task force (process),” Luna said. “The good news is that we’re still at the table continuing to work through trying to find common ground.”

The Tiered Licensure Technical Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet next on June 4.