Panel finalizes $175 million teacher pay plan

MERIDIAN – A state subcommittee has made its recommendation to dramatically transform teacher pay by abolishing the state’s salary grid.

Sept 29 Career Ladder
Members of the state’s Career Ladder subcommittee debate teacher pay proposals Monday afternoon at the West Ada School District offices.

On Monday, the State Board of Education’s Tiered Licensure/Career Ladder subcommittee endorsed a career ladder system to raise teacher pay, over a five-year implementation period. The vote was 12-0, with five abstentions.

The recommendation dates back to August 2013, and a unanimous recommendation from Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education.

If adopted by the Legislature, the system would tie to the State Board subcommittee’s tiered teacher licensing plan.

Here’s how the pay plan would break down:

  • Teachers who hold a beginning residency certificate: $40,000 to $42,000.
  • Teachers who hold a standard professional certificate: $47,000 to $51,000.
  • Teachers who hold a master professional certificate: $54,000 to $58,000.

Idaho law now establishes a minimum teacher salary of $31,750.

For years, the state has sent teacher pay to districts based on a salary grid, based on a teacher’s experience and educational background.

The proposal may be Idaho’s most serious step in 15 years to raise teacher pay, said State Board member and subcommittee chairman Rod Lewis.

“We had very difficult time in getting there,” he said. “I tend to believe what we have done as a committee here is monumental … In my mind, this is once-in-a-career or -lifetime opportunity.”

The Legislature will need to approve the career ladder and corresponding changes to Idaho law.

And none of it will be cheap.

The first year of implementation would cost $23.7 million.

The costs climb to $38 million in year two; $45.6 million in year three; $36.8 million more in year four; and nearly $30.5 million in year five.

That totals $174.6 million in new funding over five years. By the time the plan is fully implemented, the total state cost of paying teachers would hit an estimated $783.9 million.

State Superintendent Tom Luna voted for the proposal and championed it Monday, but said it may be tricky to steer the plan through the Legislature.

“There is no rubber stamp in the Legislature,” said Luna, who will have stepped down before the 2015 session convenes. “I don’t care what you bring to them and how well you think it is prepared. Our work is done; theirs just begins.”

But Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, said there is reason for hope.

“As long as the economy continues in a positive direction, it is achievable,” Clow said.

Three lawmakers — Clow, Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, and Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls — abstained from Monday’s vote. Horman said she supported the concept, but wanted to vet the numbers and reserve her vote for the Legislature. Clow said he struggled with using the term career ladder and thought the proposal should have simply been referred to as implementing the tiered licensure proposal.

Ward-Engelking said she supports full implementation of the career ladder, but thinks the money should be given to teachers before the system of tiered licensure is enacted.

Idaho Education Association members also abstained, while IEA President Penni Cyr also voted against an additional resolution linking teacher pay with the tiered licensure system.

IEA officials have opposed the proposed tiered licensure system since May, because it ties a licenses to an evaluation performed at the school district level.

Lewis sought to clarify some of the complexity surrounding tiered licensure. A teacher’s ability to earn an initial residency certificate and to advance to a professional certificate in three years is partially based on local evaluations, he said. However, once a teacher obtains a professional license it could not be revoked through tiered licensure.

Evaluations would still continue for teachers with a professional certificate. If teachers do not meet the performance threshold, they would be given a contingent professional license, not forfeit their license.

Beginning next week, the State Board will conduct three public hearings to gather feedback on the tiered certification plans. The meetings are set for:

  • 7 p.m. Oct. 7, Pocatello: Idaho State University Student Union, Salmon River Room.
  • 7 p.m. Oct. 14, Lewiston: Lewis-Clark State College, Meriwether Lewis Hall, Room 100.
  • 7 p.m. Oct. 21, Nampa, College of Western Idaho, Micron Center for PTE, Classrooms 1701 A/B.

Clark Corbin

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