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.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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