No bonuses this year for master educators

The state will end the calendar year without paying out a new crop of bonuses designed to reward educators at the top of their field.

The State Board of Education still does not have a timeline for when it will select and pay teachers who earn the master education premiums this year. Initially, State Board officials had hoped to notify premium recipients in the fall.

Created by the Legislature, the master educator premiums are a financial incentive that was designed to reward the state’s highest performing experienced teachers.

The premiums are worth $4,000 per year and renew for three years, bringing the total value to a successful applicant to $12,000.

This year’s class of 653 applicants is still waiting and wondering whether they will receive the bonus.

The portfolio applications have been turned over to reviewers, State Board spokesman Mike Keckler said when asked to describe where the process stands today.

The State Board does not have a timeline for when the review and notification process will be complete, he said.

State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield said the process has taken longer than expected because of the coronavirus’ impact on the education system. The State Board also had a hard time finding portfolio reviewers outside of the Treasure Valley, where most portfolios were submitted.

“That said, I understand the frustration MEP applicants are feeling,” Critchfield wrote in a guest column last month. “They put considerable time into developing their portfolios and, rightfully, are anxious to hear whether they will receive the $4,000 premium annually for the next three years.”

Delays in getting payments out also affected last year’s award winners.

The State Department of Education ran into delays validating data for 1,307 teachers who earned a premium last year, which held up their bonuses even though teachers expected them to automatically renew. The SDE sent payments out for last year’s class of master educator premium recipients the week of Nov. 16, SDE communications director Karlynn Laraway said.

Whatever ultimately happens, this is the final class of master educator premium applicants. Gov. Brad Little and the Legislature are phasing the program out in favor of planned enhancements to the career ladder salary allocation model.

Even though the master educator premium is being phased out, state officials said they will pay the full three years of premiums for last year’s winners and this year’s winners.

The program has faced delays and mixed response from educators throughout its life.

Educators reported spending 80-120 hours compiling evidence and filling out the application portfolios.
Some of the state’s most high profile teachers didn’t even apply for the premiums a year ago when the program first launched.

Altogether, the state estimated there were likely thousands of teachers who met the minimum requirements but did not apply.



Clark Corbin

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