Idaho Sets Up Career Ladder Plan to Reward Best Teachers


The Idaho state Board of Education has endorsed legislation that will set up a "career ladder" for public school teachers that will phase in substantial pay increases based on teacher performance.

Richard Westerberg, a board member and chairman of the governor's education improvement task force, helped come up with the career ladder plan as part of the task force's 20 recommendations for reforming education in the state. The plan is to reward districts' best teachers, reports The Spokesman-Review‘s Betsy Z. Russell. Base salaries for new teachers would rise from $31,750 to $40,000 over the course of five years. In the first year, the 2015-2016 school year, it would increase to $33,600. Top-level teachers would get an increase from $47,000 to $58,000 over five years with a rise to $47,803 in the first year.

Board spokesperson Marilyn Whitney said that those just entering the profession are getting an extra boost. The Idaho Education Association teachers union was still studying the legislation this week.

The catch is that teachers will only get these raises if they meet proficiency standards in teacher evaluations and a majority of their students meet the achievement targets set by their school districts. There will also be raises for teachers who attain higher levels of education.

The career ladder represents a major step forward in how Idaho pays teachers," said state Board President Emma Atchley. "Idaho public school salaries would become more competitive with other states and the private sector. We believe this plan will be crucial in attracting and retaining great teachers and will significantly improve the quality of education for our students."

This plan will be in addition to the $16 million that school districts receive each year for leadership bonuses given to teachers who have been acknowledged for mentoring, teaching dual-credit classes, earning additional endorsements, and other extra work.

Two years ago a statewide bipartisan group of stakeholders, the Governor's Task Force on Education, reported that the state was losing too many teachers to other states and professions offering higher salaries, so they formed a plan aimed at increasing teachers' pay scale.

"I don't know of anyone around the state, especially education stakeholders, who would argue that we don't need to do better and be more competitive with our teachers," said Debbie Critchfield, who sits on the Board of Education. "We, as a board, really feel that this is the best step we've seen in years as far as a way to do that."

The cost to the state will be, in the first year, $28 million, says Justin Corr, reporting for KTVB-TV.

Clark Corbin of Idaho Education News, writes that districts may still negotiate salaries locally, and are free to pay above the set appropriation. The minimum $40,000 level will be mandatory, however. The career ladder plan will be in concert with the tiered licensure certification system that was approved by the board last month. One board member, Bill Goesling, was reluctant to vote for the new plan, based on some confusion on the part of school district leaders with whom he met recently. Goesling was in favor of the board delaying the vote until more public hearings could be organized, which might ensure that voters would not overturn the approval.

"This is a product of almost two years of work by a group of education stakeholders," board member Richard Westerberg said. "The process used to build the proposal was as open and transparent as any I've seen in the state of Idaho."

The recommendation passed unanimously.

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