Lawmaker pushes for new teaching awards

A longtime educator-turned-lawmaker is hoping to reward 105 of the state’s best teachers every year.

Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, introduced a bill Thursday in the House Education Committee to create the Idaho Legislative Outstanding Teacher Awards.

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Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls

If the bill passes, all 105 lawmakers would have the opportunity to recommend a teacher from his or her district.

“Teachers like to be recognized for what they do and, sometimes, they don’t feel like they are recognized,” Bateman said. “(They) feel the criticism more than the accolades.”

Bateman, a former teacher who also helps colleges and universities work with prospective teachers, said he came up with the idea after meeting with educators and Bonneville Joint School District Superintendent Chuck Shackett.

The award would come with a $500 check and an 11-by-14 certificate emblazoned with the state seal. Bateman and a friend based the design on the 1899 dollar bill.

Funding would come from the legislative account – not the public school budget – and the awards would cost $50,000 to $53,000 per year, Bateman estimated.

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Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian

Committee members voted unanimously to introduce the bill, but not before asking several probing questions.

Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, wondered if the makeup of legislative districts would make it difficult to present the awards, since some lawmakers have many school districts within their legislative district, while others have just one.

Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, asked whether the cost estimate accurately reflected the “time and effort” it would take to select teachers and present the awards. He questioned whether the true cost would be “much bigger.”

Bateman said lawmakers will simply visit a school or district office in their community and ask education leaders to select the teacher for recognition who has “a demonstrated record of improving student engagement and learning.”

“The simplicity is the attractive part of this,” Bateman said.

Classroom teachers from public schools and public charter schools would be eligible to receive the award.

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