Teacher ‘premium’ bill makes its debut

Just don’t call them “bonuses.”

Rep. Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree

But State Reps. Lance Clow and Julie VanOrden have written a bill that would provide $15.9 million of leadership “premiums” to teachers across the state. The premiums would represent a first step in establishing a teacher career salary ladder — a $253 million undertaking that is the most expensive of the 20 recommendations from Gov. Butch Otter’s education reform task force.

After a lengthy walk-through — but without a dissenting vote — the House Education Committee introduced the leadership premium bill Thursday morning. That means the bill will come back to House Education for a full hearing, possibly next week.

The yardsticks for a premium echo previous attempts at pay-for-performance. Teachers might be able to earn extra money for completing a master’s program, earning instruction “endorsements” in multiple subject areas, taking on hard-to-fill district jobs or mentoring fellow teachers.

“I think a lot of these ideas did come out of what the task force recommended,” VanOrden said.

Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls

But the sponsors have steered away from “bonus” language, Clow said, because teachers would receive a premium while they are taking on a leadership role. They wouldn’t be expected to take on added responsibilities, in hopes of receiving a bonus after the fact.

Sponsors arrived at the $15.9 million figure by multiplying the number of teachers in the state by $850. But, said Clow, “This is not intended to be an increase in every teacher’s contract.”

Teachers could earn a one-year premium of up to $5,780. The minimum premium would be $850.

It would be up to local school boards to determine which teachers get premiums, and how much money these teachers would receive. The state’s 115 school districts would receive a share of the $15.9 million, based on average daily attendance. “We want to allow as much local control as possible,” Clow said.

Premiums would be awarded a year at a time, but Clow suggested a district could renew a premium, for a teacher who continues in an ongoing leadership role.

The idea of a career ladder — significantly boosting pay for starting teachers and veteran instructors alike — received unanimous backing from the 31 elected officials, business leaders and education stakeholders on the task force.

By any name, premium or bonus, this $15.9 million proposal sets up a possible collision course on the budget.

State Superintendent Tom Luna’s budget proposal includes $15.9 million for leadership pay, and the concept has backing in the education committees and from some legislative budget-writers. But Otter’s budget proposal freezes teacher salaries and provides no money for leadership pay.


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