More than 1,200 teachers will receive state master educator premiums

For 1,405 Idaho teachers, the wait is over.

And for 1,226 teachers, the money is on the way.

The vast majority of applicants will receive one of Idaho’s new master educator premiums — a $4,000-per-year bonus designed to reward Idaho’s highest performing veteran teachers.

The State Board of Education’s emails to applicants began going out Monday, and more went out on Tuesday.

The long-awaited word on the premiums comes more than three months after applicants turned in detailed portfolios laying out their case for a share of the money.

But the process has been marked by disenchantment and delays.

Many applicants bemoaned the time-consuming application process, saying it took 80 to 120 hours to put together the state-required paperwork. By the State Board’s own numbers, thousands of qualified teachers didn’t apply for the premiums.

Meanwhile, technical glitches delayed the review process. And in hundreds of cases, the application reviews stretched into September — past the State Board’s target date for wrapping up the project.

“It has been a challenging process for all involved,” State Board spokesman Mike Keckler said Tuesday morning. “Our hope is next year will go much smoother.”

From here, recipients will have to turn in paperwork attesting that their application materials are accurate.

The State Board does not yet have a breakdown on where the money will go — by district, charter or geographic region.

But Tuesday’s number answers one big question that had been the subject of conjecture.

The first-year pricetag for the premiums comes in at slightly above $4.9 million. That’s well below initial projections, and well below the $7.2 million the Legislature had set aside for the launch.

The premiums run for up to three years, so successful applicants eventually could receive $12,000.

A master educator premium timeline

Tuesday’s news was more than four years in the making:

2015: The Legislature adopts the master educator premium as an offshoot of the career ladder, a five-year, $250 million plan to boost teacher salaries. The state begins funding the career ladder immediately, but sets a 2019 launch for the premiums.

August 2017: The State Board adopts a master educator premium plan, with no caps. The board says all eligible applicants will get a bonus.

September 2018: State leaders begin planning to pay for the first-year premiums, even though they have no way of knowing how many eligible teachers will apply. State superintendent Sherri Ybarra seeks $12 million for the launch — enough to cover 3,000 premiums.

2019: The Legislature approves $7.2 million for premiums — enough for 1,800 bonuses. Lawmakers also give the State Board $263,000 for administrative costs, such as hiring veteran teachers to review the applications.

July: The application deadline arrives, and 1,405 teachers put in for a premium. By State Board estimates, 8,000 to 10,000 teachers met the minimum requirements for a premium.

July: During separate subcommittee meetings of Gov. Brad Little’s K-12 task force, reigning Idaho teacher of the year Marc Beitia and task force co-chair Bill Gilbert criticize the time-consuming application process. “If you’re a full classroom teacher and perhaps a coach, 120 hours is pretty valuable whether it’s with your family or wherever,” said Beitia.

Sept. 1: The State Board’s self-imposed deadline comes and goes without decisions on the premiums.

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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