Ybarra now wants 3 percent teacher raises

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra tweaked her teacher pay proposal Thursday and called for all teachers to get 3 percent raises next year.

Sherri Ybarra square
Sherri Ybarra

Ybarra outlined her budget proposal and vision for schools to the House Education Committee before taking questions Thursday.

As she did last week, Ybarra again called for a pilot program to phase in the career ladder – perhaps at nine districts and one charter school. But when lawmakers pressed her for more specifics on her $25 million plan she said every district would receive the same amount for teacher pay next year.

“Everybody across Idaho will get a 3 percent increase,” Ybarra said. “Those districts participating in the pilot (will be asked to) come up with creative ways other than original steps and lanes (from the state’s existing salary reimbursement table).”

During her closely watched Jan. 29 presentation to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, Ybarra left ambiguous her plans for teacher pay and the career ladder – telling budget writers to “stay tuned” for details.

During a press conference later that same day, Ybarra said she would prefer that districts receive at least enough funding for 2 percent raises for teachers.

Under the 3 percent plan she outlined Thursday, districts in the career ladder pilot program would receive the same amount of funding as other districts, but would need to come up with new ways to distribute that money among teachers. Districts would be able to apply to be part of the pilot — and she has already heard from interested school administrators.

The pilot program would run for four years, while the vast majority of districts would continue to use the existing salary reimbursement table.

“I recommend the pilot project because it’s a form of risk management,” Ybarra said. “We learn by doing, and we have never done this before.”

Late last year, the State Board of Education advanced a career ladder proposal that calls for increasing teacher pay across the board and raising minimum teacher salaries from $31,750 to $40,000 over five years. The career ladder would replace the salary reimbursement schedule and replace it with more money and a system that rewards teachers based on their performance and student growth.

Gov. Butch Otter, House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, and Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, all favor an immediate, statewide rollout of the career ladder.

Ybarra emphasized that all Idaho public schools will administer the ISAT by Smarter Balanced — a test aligned with Common Core standards. The test is required under Idaho’s waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law, but she said she is working to give schools testing flexibility in the coming years.

She proposed investigating the penalties the state could face if families are allowed to opt out of testing.

She also called for staggered testing. For example, students in grades three, five, seven and nine might take the English test, while students in grades four, six and eight take the math test.

Kerby New
Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth

Republican Rep. Ryan Kerby, who is superintendent of the New Plymouth School District, warned Ybarra that there could be problems associated with staggered testing. It would be difficult to track student growth from year to year, unless schools augmented her plan with rigorous, dependable local assessments.

Not all districts are in a position to do that, he said. “Especially districts that don’t have their own curriculum director, they have pretty spotty, inconsistent local assessments.”

On Thursday, Ybarra delivered a 13-minute prepared speech, read a story a mentor shared with her for four minutes and fielded questions for an additional 31 minutes.

Ybarra delivered the same speech and recommendations to the Senate Education Committee later Thursday afternoon.