Idaho legislative committee to weigh $215 million proposal to boost teacher pay over 5 years

Associated Press

An Idaho legislative panel will consider a roughly $215 million plan to boost teacher pay over the next five years with the hope of attracting and retaining skilled instructors.

The House Education Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to introduce the bill after getting a sneak peek at it last week. The measure will next have a hearing before the panel, though a date for that has not been set.

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Under the plan, rookie teacher pay would increase from $31,750 a year to $32,200 a year beginning in fiscal year 2016. By 2020, new teachers would be paid $37,000 a year.

All teachers currently earning the minimum salary would receive a pay boost.

The bill is part of an ongoing effort to halt the exodus of Idaho's teachers seeking higher salaries, often found in neighboring states.

Lawmakers have spent most of this session hashing out a plan that would appease all stakeholders.

"We believe that revenue will continue to grow at a 5 percent rate, and these numbers have been projected out based on that," said Marilyn Whitney, education liaison for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, who presented the bill Wednesday. "Barring another recession, we believe this is very doable."

After three years, teachers would automatically move up to the second tier, but they must hit certain benchmarks to receive more money. The pay grade would range from $42,000 to $50,000 per year, depending on experience and educational background.

The plan also calls for additional incentives, known as "leadership premiums," that would allow teachers to earn an extra $3,500 to $4,000 a year depending on educational background and student achievement.

The plan, if passed, would start July 1, costing taxpayers an estimated $31.9 million in its first year.

"It's going to be good for teachers," House Speaker Scott Bedke said during a Wednesday luncheon with reporters. "At the same time, we're spending a lot of money. I want to see well-paid teachers accountable to the taxpayer."

Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill noted that in the past, Idaho has maintained a conservative approach to education funding. But he said the Legislature is making strides to add more dollars as the state recovers from the recent economic downturn.

"I think it's always been a priority, but there is more focus on public education this year," Hill said.