The 2015 legislative session at the Capitol in Boise took a huge leap toward its conclusion Monday as House members voted 62 to 8 to approve a massive teacher pay increase package.
Boosting teacher pay was a top legislative priority coming into the session and after several hearings and long hours of negotiations with stakeholders, legislators are closer than ever to notching the item off their list.
The plan will cost an estimated $125 million and will move starting teacher pay from just more than $31,000 to $37,000 through a five-year process. It would also take salaries for veteran teachers, those with three or more years in the classroom, to at least $42,000 annually.
House Education Committee Chair Reed DeMordaunt, R-Star, told colleagues his plan had the backing of all stakeholder groups and would address teacher turnover.
“We are getting to a crisis situation,” DeMordaunt said.
The 34-page bill will also provide “fair and consistent” educator evaluations, the committee chair said. He promised that a teacher in Boise would see the same evaluation as educators in small Idaho towns.
The bill offers other goodies for teachers, too, including bonus pay for “master teachers” and leadership bonuses. These perks can run into the thousands of dollars per teacher per year. To qualify, teachers must meet requirements for classroom experience, student achievement and education attainment. Educators with advanced degrees, for example, would likely see more money under the plan.
DeMourdaunt said the bill includes new mechanisms for teacher accountability, which he believes will lead Idaho to a better-trained workforce.
“This is significant,” he said. “This is a paradigm shift.”
The plan moves to the Senate, a body whose leader, Pro Tem Brent Hill, a Republican from Rexburg, has already signaled his support in a joint letter with Gov. Butch Otter and House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley.
If the Senate passes the measure, legislators can finish their work in short order. The Legislature’s budget committee has been idle for nearly two weeks awaiting the pay plan, the final piece of the education spending plan.
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