State lawmakers in Maine are considering a bill that would increase the minimum teacher salary in the state by $10,000 per year. Maine teachers employed by the public school system would also be required to hold a master’s degree.
Beginning July 1, 2016, the bill would raise the minimum teacher salary in the state from $30,000 to $40,000. In addition, beginning in the 2017-18 fiscal year, the Department of Education would be required to increase the allocations schools receive from the state in order to help them meet the new salary requirements.
Proposed by Senator Rebecca Millett, LD 1370, An Act to Improve the Quality of Teachers, is supported by education officials, although some have expressed concern that the new rules could cause the state difficulty in terms of finding new teachers to staff schools which are already lacking, writes Nick McCrea for The Bangor Daily News.
The bill added a number of new rules for those looking to pursue a career in the field in the hopes of increasing the quality of teachers.
Students in education schools must have at least one year of practicum experience beginning in their sophomore year. In addition, 24 weeks of student teaching experience must be obtained during their senior year. Currently, students in the state must only participate in 15 weeks of practicum experience during their senior year.
Teachers-to-be at the elementary and secondary levels must hold a GPA of at least 3.0 by the time they graduate. Any teacher who receives a certificate after July 1, 2015 must obtain a master’s degree within five years of being employed.
Peer reviews would be conducted for teachers with three or less years of experience, which would include classroom observations and “formative feedback.”
$500,000 in funding would be included to be put toward loan programs for eligible students through the Educators of Maine Program.
“LD 1370 raises the status of teaching so we can attract the best and brightest to the profession and pay them a salary they deserve,” said Lois Kilby-Chesley, president of the Maine Education Association, voicing her organization’s support for the bill. “We need to encourage motivated, enthusiastic graduates to join us in classrooms as we shape the future of Maine students.”
According to the Maine Education Association, about 30% of teachers in the state are 55 or older, making it necessary for the state to attract new professionals to the field.
Currently only three districts in the state offer its teachers a starting salary of over $40,000.
While Bowdoin and Bates colleges opposed the bill, saying their students are not required to declare a major until the end of their sophomore year, supporters of the bill argue that the new requirements would allow students to determine whether or not teaching is a good fit for them early on. Bowdoin and Bates said they supported increasing base pay for teachers, although they worry that the additional requirements would cause an increase in the amount it costs to educate students in their schools, which would raise tuition.