Last class of teacher bonus recipients announced

The State Board of Education has named the last batch of recipients to receive Idaho’s master educator premiums — bonuses given to veteran educators.

The final list of awardees includes 597 teachers and pupil services staff who made the cut for the 2020-2021 school year, State Board spokesman Mike Keckler said. That’s a bump from the 569 who were initially notified in March.

Having evaluated all appeals from applicants who were denied, the State Board will not award any more premiums, Keckler told EdNews Monday.

Per the program’s structure, recipients will be awarded $4,000 per-year bonuses for three years, as long as they continue teaching in Idaho public schools. The premiums were first created as a form of performance-based pay, meant to go to the state’s top veteran educators. But the Legislature and Gov. Brad Little’s office together decided to phase out the bonus program after a two-year run, so this was the final round of applications.

Over its lifespan, the financial incentive program awarded bonuses to most applicants. In year one, 94% of applications were accepted, and in year two, 92% were accepted.

Applications dropped off by more than 50% between the first and second year, though, and a few factors could explain the slide. Applicants from the first year had already locked in three years’ worth of checks and wouldn’t have applied during the second round. Plus, some of the state’s most decorated teachers did not apply because the process was too time-consuming and cumbersome, EdNews previously reported.

Treasure Valley teachers received the bonuses — and applied for them — in the highest numbers throughout the programs’ existence. Like last year, educators from the Boise and West Ada school districts took a majority of the premiums awarded in 2021, a combined 330 of 597, or 55%.

By the time it sunsets in 2024, the program will have cost taxpayers $22.8 million. A gross $7.2 million will go to this year’s 597 awardees, and $15.6 million will be paid out to last year’s 1,307 awardees.

The state’s strategy for compensating veteran educators will now likely center on building out Idaho’s teacher pay ladder, which lays out salary echelons for teachers based on years of experience and advanced degrees. After budget holdbacks early in the coronavirus pandemic put raises on hold, the Legislature agreed to bankroll the salary schedule earlier this year when it approved K-12 education budgets.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report.

Blake Jones

Blake Jones

Reporter Blake Jones covers the politics and policy of Idaho's K-12 public school system. He's a lifelong Idahoan, and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Political Economy from the College of Idaho. Follow Blake on Twitter @jonesblakej. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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