Task force subcommittee may call for changes to master teacher premiums

The co-chairman of Gov. Brad Little’s education task force said Tuesday he would never run a business the way the state is running a financial incentive program designed to reward Idaho’s master teachers.

From there, the teacher pipeline subcommittee from the “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force discussed whether to call on the Legislature to revamp the new master educator premium program.

The Legislature created the master educator premiums, which provide a $4,000 per year bonus for teachers who meet experience requirements and can demonstrate mastery through a detailed portfolio submitted to the State Board of Education.

Earlier this month, 1,405 Idaho educators applied for the premiums, which will be awarded for the first time during the 2019-20 school year. Some educators have complained the application process is too cumbersome and time consuming. It appears thousands of teachers who may have met the state requirements — including 2019 Idaho Teacher of the Year Marc Beitia —did not apply.

Bill Gilbert

After listening Beitia critique the premium program Tuesday, task force co-chair Bill Gilbert blasted the master educator premiums.

“If I took my top performing people and I required them to do something in order to earn additional money that took 100 hours out their life, I could tell you what would happen to my retention rate,” Gilbert said. “I would never run any company this way, and I understand there is a difference between business and education.”

Gilbert is the co-founder and managing director of the Boise finance firm Caprock.

During the discussion, State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield said the premiums were created when the Legislature did not create a proposed third rung of the career ladder salary law, which was designed to increase pay for veteran teachers.

Before the Legislature passed the 2015-era salary law, the proposed career ladder called for three different rungs that sent out $40,000 for teachers on the first rung, $50,000 at the second and $60,000 at the third rung.

“Do we have a real hard, serious conversation about that third rung (of the career ladder)?” Critchfield said. “Do we resurrect that? How is it we compensate them for the work being done? That’s worthy of another look.”

Meanwhile, State Board officials offered more details about the application pool for the master premiums. More than half of the 1,405 applications came from Idaho’s two largest school districts. In Boise, 434 educators applied while West Ada had 327 applicants, Chief Planning and Policy Office Tracie Bent said.

Fruitland produced one applicant and American Falls had three.

The subcommittee also discussed teacher recruitment and retention, teacher pay, evaluations and accountability.

The committee didn’t finalize any recommendations for the full task force, but are considering several. Some ideas, other than revamping the master educator premiums, include:

  • Improving teacher pay.
  • Improving teacher morale.
  • Building and keeping the career ladder without lumping it into a proposed new K-12 public school funding formula.
  • Creating a system of recognition for teacher teams.
  • Strengthening mentoring programs.
  • Strengthening alternative paths to certification.
  • Local control and real time responses.
  • Senior internship programs to meet career and college readiness.
  • Using data to inform how schools recruit and retain.
  • Loan forgiveness programs for rural districts.
  • More clearly defining state roles and local roles.
  • Professional development.

Beitia called for changing the culture to where teaching is considered a noble profession and creating a system where educators are empowered.

The subcommittee’s challenge is to narrow its recommendations to just one or two for the full task force this fall.

Coming later this week to Idaho Education News: Hear from two educators who completed the master educator premium applications.



Clark Corbin

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