I am grateful to Gov. Brad Little, Superintendent Sherri Ybarra, and Idaho legislators who are looking at teacher salaries. I work in a small, rural and remote school district. The challenges we face in recruiting and retaining talented and caring staff are very real.
Here is a snapshot of Butte County:
- Population: 2,611
- Population 25 yrs. old+ with at least a bachelor’s degree: 12.3%
- Median household income: $43,207
- Median house value: $110,000
- Students participating in Free and Reduced Lunch: 50%
- Percentage of teachers with bachelor’s degrees: 100%
- Percentage of teachers with advanced degrees: 27%
- Teacher salary range: $40,750 – $50,000
One of our teachers has been teaching here for 30 years. She has a master’s degree, but she does not coach and does not have a supplemental contract. Because of the Career Ladder, she makes $50,000. Prior to the Career Ladder she was making $43,667. The Career Ladder has helped to level the playing field between our small district and larger districts. We are in a better position now to compete for teachers and to keep those already on staff.
During my career as a teacher, my wife used to joke that I had to take a second job to support my teaching habit. Jokes aside, teaching is not a habit. Every day Idaho teachers are providing a path to a brighter future for our students. I think of Anne Sullivan who opened up the future to Helen Keller. Idaho teachers are doing this every day. Idaho public school teachers are unifying our diverse population. They are preparing students for citizenship in a democratic society. Our teachers are preparing students to become economically self-sufficient and to become good neighbors. Nowhere are teachers required take a vow of poverty. Yet more often than not, they take a second job to provide for their families. Increasing the Career Ladder will help teachers and it will also help small districts like mine keep our experienced staff from leaving.
Look at your own district. Have you seen good teachers leave for greener pastures? I would suspect you have. My friends in Bear Lake, in Teton, and in Coeur d’Alene see teachers leaving Idaho. Teachers in places like Melba, Kimberly, and Arco are leaving for higher paying, larger districts. The Career Ladder has been a valuable tool for small districts in leveling the playing field. An increased rung would only strengthen small districts like mine.
The mood is shifting among teachers. Idaho is becoming a more attractive place for educators. I am grateful for the conversations taking place at 700 W. Jefferson St. about teacher salaries and the Career Ladder. Continued thoughtful dialogue will lead us to a solution that is right for rural school districts and that is right for Idaho.