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Project Idaho: Tackling teacher pay

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Idaho's education funding is currently undergoing a complete overhaul a total reconstruction of what is a decades old system.

Idaho Education Association President Kari Overall and several education professionals addressed concerns with the new school funding formula , including the impact it could have on a program created to boost teacher salaries.

“One of the most successful of the governor’s task force was the career ladder creation. It was the result of compromises among stakeholders and developed thrugh thoughtful and thorough process. It was negotiated in good faith by all parties and included a 5 year funding commitment from the idaho legislature. That career ladder is no longer recognizable in the legislative draft.”

The career ladder is currently in its fourth of five planned years. For the first four years legislators created the 13 rung ladder. The first three are residency rungs, mainly for newer teachers in a type of probationary period.

After that there are ten professional rungs and teachers move up based on things like performance. Where a teacher sits on the career ladder determines how much money their district is compensated from the state.

Education officials say while the ladder has been great for recruiting teachers it hasn't been as helpful in retaining them.

”I've heard over and over again from our what we call early novice teachers, they’ve said to me 'Thank you so much. We appreciate the focus on the early teachers and everything that you’ve done,' but most folks know now that we really need to focus on our veterans and keeping them in the classroom,” said Sherri Ybarra, superintendent of public instruction.

IEA president Kari Overall she explained the need for more funding at the top.

“The original governor’s task force recommended a 40 thousand, 50 thousand 60 thousand dollar pay scale. The legislature has invested in salaries the last four and a half years but they have not invested in the top rung of the career ladder and so early career educators have seen raises but those same raises have not been translated to veteran educators and so many veteran educators, if their district hasn’t put in additional money, haven’t seen raises in three, four, five years or they’ve seen minimal increases while early educators are seeing much larger increases,“ Overall said.

Ybarra says her most recent budget proposal addresses this problem and reflects the original task force recommended pay scale

"The other thing you will see in the budget the fiscal year 2020 ask is I've asked for raises above and beyond the scheduled statutory raise or just the scheduled required raise," Ybarra said. "The other ask in the budget this year is something called a master teacher premium and that’s for our educators who are our veterans can submit a portfolio of their artifacts and their works to get additional money for them."

“We have to invest in our veteran educators if we want to keep them," Overall said. "We can’t keep ignoring that top rung. If we do we’ll continue to see educators leave the state to go where they can make more or continue to go to districts that are providing supplemental levy funding to pay more.”

According to the most recent report by the National Education Association in 2017 the average teacher salary in Idaho was about $47,500 dollars ranking Idaho 43rd for teacher pay in the nation.

But salary is just one of many factors in Idaho's current struggle to keep their teachers.

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We are making a long-term commitment to reporting on education.

Are you a former Idaho educator? Email us at ProjectIdaho@kboi2.com

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