Idaho’s average teacher salary drops by nearly $900

Idaho’s average teacher salary is down after five straight years of increases largely because of veteran turnover and a temporary salary freeze.

The 2020-21 statewide average: $50,794, a drop of $897 from last year’s 51,691, according to numbers from the State Department of Education.

Idaho’s five-year career ladder salary law helped push average salaries past $51,000 last year. Average salaries are still up 15 percent since the law went into effect in 2015, when the number was $44,205.

Yet as COVID-19 descended on Idaho, Gov. Brad Little temporarily froze state funding of the career ladder as part of plan to cut K-12 funding by $99 million.

On Monday, Little called for reversing those holdbacks, including $44.9 million to increase teacher pay through the career ladder.

Still, several K-12 leaders say the freeze impacted this year’s salaries. Other factors — including turnover among veteran teachers, size and local funds available to offset the freeze — also played a part.

Widespread declines

About half of Idaho’s 181 districts and charters saw salaries drop this school year. By comparison, numbers fell in only a handful of districts and charters last school year.

This year’s declines varied greatly. While Southeast Idaho’s Soda Springs saw an average drop of just $20, Canyon County’s rural Notus School District posted a decline of $11,921.

Declines were less pronounced in Idaho’s eight largest school districts, with Boise posting the only increase from last year:

District 

2019-20 Avg. Salary 2020-21 Avg. Salary Change

West Ada 

$53,099 $52,988 -$111
Boise 

$61,407

$61,722

$315

Nampa

$47,599

$47,398

-$201

Bonneville

$48,128

$48,085

-$43

Pocatello-Chubbuck

$50,325

$49,393

-$932

Coeur d’Alene

$56,943

$56,562

-$381

Idaho Falls 

$51,189

$50,646

-$552
Twin Falls

$48,279

$46,835

-$1,444

Some increased average salaries

Despite widespread declines, average teacher salaries rose from last year in at least 80 districts and charters.

These increases also occurred on a wide spectrum. Salmon-based Fernwaters Charter School led the statewide pack, jumping from $73,154 in 2019-20 to $79,931 this school year. East Idaho’s Madison School District posted a barely noticeable $5 gain.

Other notable increases from across the state:

  • Idaho Falls-based Whitepine Charter School and Alturas International Academy saw average salaries rise by $2,004 and $1,602, respectively.
  • East Idaho’s Teton School District saw an increase of $1,056.
  • The Moscow School District’s single-year increase: $278.

Click here for average teacher salaries at all districts and charters, as well as overall salary growth over five years.

Several factors impacted this year’s numbers

Little’s career ladder freeze played a “primary” role in Bonneville’s $43 average salary drop, said Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme. “Because we did not increase teacher salaries, all of the new teachers that were hired would have been hired at a lower salary than retiring teachers.”

Twin Falls spokeswoman Eva Craner also linked the freeze, coupled with higher turnover rates among more experienced teachers, to the district’s $1,444 drop from last year.

Little’s freeze, along with larger proportions of new teachers, dragged down averages more sharply in smaller districts and charters. Garden City organization director Heather Dennis attributed the growing school’s $2,192 average salary decline to the addition of just two new teachers to its 23-person staff.

Still, some districts offset declines associated with the freeze by retaining more experienced teachers. Madison Superintendent Geoff Thomas linked his district’s slight average salary decline of $5 to a decrease in the number of veteran teachers retiring compared to prior years.

Available funds at the local level also helped shape this year’s numbers.

The Coeur d’Alene district softened the blow of Little’s freeze by using funds to allow teachers to advance a “half step” up the career this year, said spokesman Scott Maben.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this story. 

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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