Is the call for adequate teacher compensation in Idaho being heard?
I left the teaching profession almost six years ago for several reasons.
I would be lying if I said that my salary was not part of it.
Three of my four years in the classroom were marked by paychecks hampered by the Great Recession. Teacher pay was just one thing on the chopping block after the crash of 2008.
But the landscape was changing when I left in 2015. Idaho teachers then received five straight years of raises and a notable increase in the state’s minimum teacher wage, which was about $32,000 in my district when I started. Veteran teachers became eligible for “master teacher bonuses” to help boost their salaries.
Was that enough?
It’s not for me to say. But I can run through some key numbers and findings, and how Gov. Brad Little’s education wish list from his recent State of the State address could help boost teacher salaries.
Go back to 2015, when lawmakers passed the five-year teacher salary “career ladder,” a $250 million plan to sequentially increase salaries across the state, especially for teachers at the start of the school year. their career.
It was a big commitment, and a big question was whether lawmakers would follow through or not.
They did it. In 2020, average salaries had jumped 12.5% since the start of the career ladder. Idaho’s minimum teacher salary had soared to $40,000, thanks to the 2019 legislature’s approval of Little’s two-year plan to raise salaries for beginning teachers.
That’s not all. Veteran teachers had become eligible for $12,000 each in master teacher bonuses, which thousands had won by 2021.
The 2020-21 statewide average teacher salary of $50,794 was down slightly from $51,691 a year earlier after COVID caused a temporary salary freeze. But the 2021-22 K-12 school budget has fully funded another year of increases as part of the continued career ladder plan. In 2021, Little sought and received $44.9 million in fresh money for the career ladder. EdNews will publish the latest salary averages when available.
The increase in investment over the past half-decade is undeniable and has made a difference. Interestingly, the Idaho Education Association did not address teacher salaries as a funding need earlier this year.
But any wage increase is also a race against inflation. And as prices from commons to housing have soared to breathtaking levels during the pandemic, questions about whether the state has done enough persists.
The non-profit, non-partisan think tank compared teachers’ salaries “adjusted for inflation” from 2009-10 to 2019-20. Main conclusions:
- The average salary of teachers fell from almost $55,000 in 2009 to less than $53,000 in 2019, when inflation was a consideration.
- The state’s veteran teachers haven’t seen the same pay increases as junior teachers (though master teacher bonuses have helped put more money in their pockets in recent years).
- Idaho passed Montana and Utah in a regional wage comparison, but still trails Nevada, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington.
“To make matters worse,” the study points out, “teacher salary losses have occurred alongside soaring rents and house prices. Idaho rents increased 32% from June 2020 to June 2021, with average rents increasing from $888 in June 2020 to $1,091 in June 2021.”
Perhaps the governor saw these or similar numbers before giving his state of the art report last week. Maybe he didn’t. Either way, keeping teacher pay up was a theme. With an unprecedented state surplus forecast of $1.9 billion on the horizon, the governor has thrown around $300 million in new money for K-12 next year, an increase of 11%.
Line items offered include:
- A 10% increase in state dollars available for teacher salary increases.
- A bonus of $1,000 for each teacher.
- A budget item of $105 million to help cover school health insurance premiums.
And Little hopes to invest in other ways, including a 5% pay raise for classified personnel. Go here to learn more about the governor’s speech.
Of course, Little’s proposals remain proposals. But they carry the weight of the office he occupies.
Stick with EdNews for full coverage of the 2022 legislative session to see how the K-12 governor’s wish list will evolve in the months ahead.
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