Dr. Linda Clark, Superintendent of the West Ada (formerly Meridian) School District and Rod Lewis, member of the State Board of Education met with members of the House Education Committee on Friday morning to discuss the process and final product that encompass the tiered certification rule and proposed career ladder legislation. Clark and Lewis co-chaired the State Board subcommittee that developed these two recommendations over the past year. The IEA was represented on this subcommittee by President Penni Cyr and Sandpoint teacher Brian Smith. Dr. Clark highlighted fiscal instability within districts as a driving force behind the subcommittee’s work, as well as a need for Idaho to pay teachers more competitive salaries. “Beginning teacher salaries should be on par with STEM occupations in order to attract and retain quality teachers,” she said.
In a nutshell, the Tiered Certification rule would set up two tiers of certification—a three year non-renewable residency certification for beginning teachers and a five year renewable professional certificate. Movement between tiers would be based on demonstrated proficiencies and student growth. Current Idaho teachers would be placed in the professional tier. The IEA website has additional resources on the Tiered Certification process and the rule under consideration.
The proposed career ladders legislation would set up three levels of salary apportionment to districts, with five cells in each level. Upon full implementation, the legislation could raise the minimum apportionment to $40,000 up to a high of $58,000 at the Master level. Additional compensation is proposed for advanced degrees earned by teachers. Achieving and maintaining levels on the career ladder would be contingent upon meeting “performance criteria”. The IEA and others still have concerns about the consistency and quality of these criteria.
Dr. Clark also made it clear that it is her intent that the career ladders level the playing field between districts and districts more closely adhere to the state apportionment when paying teachers. “We need to establish a closer relationship between the money that flows into districts and the money that flows out,” she said.
House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMourdant urged his committee members to take the time needed to get their questions answered about the proposals before they come to the floor for official consideration.
Next Week: Education Week at the Legislature
The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) will delve into the budget requests for both K-12 and higher education next week. Superintendent Sherri Ybarra will get her first official introduction to JFAC when she presents her request for K-12 schools on Thursday morning, January 29th.
On the first day of the 2015 legislative session, Governor Otter laid out his plan to increase K-12 funding by just over $100 million, a 7.4% increase. Supt. Ybarra made slight modifications to the budget request submitted by the former state superintendent. Her request was a 6.4% increase and approximately $15 million less than that recommended by the governor.
The differences between the two budget requests are substantial. The increases recommended by the governor would be used to implement a number of the recommendations coming from the State Board’s Task Force for Improving Education.
Ybarra’s request eliminates or reduces a handful of specific line items in the public school budget and shifts that money to the bottom line, thereby allowing school districts to use those additional funds to pay for general operating expenses such as health insurance increases, new text books, electricity and gas bills, etc. While both the Otter and Ybarra funding requests would increase these operational funds, they fall short of the $25,696 per classroom school districts received in 2009.
Not only will Supt. Ybarra have an opportunity to further amend or clarify her budget request next week, but she will also be able to provide direction information to the budget writers regarding any new initiatives or programs she hopes to focus on over the coming year.