House Bill 637 – Public school support, teachers, trailer appropriation

Fred Birnbaum 2020 Idaho Spending Index Leave a Comment

Rating: -1

Bill description: Public School Support, Teachers, Fiscal Year 2021 trailer appropriation for House Bill 523

Analysis:

This is the trailer appropriation for House Bill 523, the Career Ladder Allocation. The trailer bill amount is $8.3 million. 

Our analysis of House Bill 523 noted the following issues:

House Bill 523 is a five-year commitment to an expanded Career Ladder funding system with a projected cost of $225 million, which will be the added ongoing cost at the end of Fiscal Year 2025. These salary increases will become statutory requirements and will be considered nondiscretionary spending. It is not prudent practice to build pay increases into statute for this much time.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation has done extensive research on the Career Ladder. Although this bill addresses some of our findings, it does not repair the core problems of the Career Ladder. On page 3, lines 28-48 of this bill, the updated language notes that achievement targets should be closest to the actual work performed by educators. However, this language is effectively nullified with the phrase, “targets may be based,” and includes “assessment tools that may be used.” This language is not an enhancement. 

Lines 11-20 of Page 4 adds performance criteria for “advanced professional compensation.” But, given recent experience with uniform teacher performance evaluations at many districts, and the ill-defined measurements of student achievement, this may not lead to improved  performance. 

The bill language could have stopped the practice of giving teachers extra pay for having more college credits, since having more credits, or even an advanced degree, is no guarantee of teaching excellence. However, the provisions for extra pay were left in state law, as were across-the-board pay increases. Additionally, the national board-certification allotment is retained. 

The bill does nothing to address the pay disparities between urban and rural districts. The former can continue to use this allocation schedule to further pad their local contracts. 

There are alternatives to simply adding more money to the Career Ladder. The Legislature could include a one-year pay raise (via the Change in Employee Compensation process). In a future session, the system of paying teachers could be rewritten to simplify the pay allocation schedule and reward excellent teachers. We should pay teachers not on their credentials and time on the job, but on their excellence.