By MARY STONE of the Lewiston Tribune
One after another Tuesday evening, teachers spoke out against the Idaho State Board of Education’s latest teacher certification and pay proposals.
Saying the plan wrongly ties their certification to district evaluations, more than 100 educators from throughout the region filled a lecture hall during a public hearing at Lewis-Clark State College.
The event was the second of three statewide hearings during a public comment period that ends Oct. 22. The board will vote on the proposals in November.
The tiered licensure piece would create levels of certification, tying certification to teacher evaluations and student progress assessed at the district level. The accompanying career ladder calls for increased state funding to districts over a five-year period, culminating in increased base pay of around $8,000 per teacher.
A teacher’s evaluation is good for professional growth, Lewiston elementary school teacher Kate Cannon said, “I just don’t understand why it’s tied to certification.”
State board members Rod Lewis and Richard Westerberg emphasized the measures were crafted with input from a broad range of people, including educators, with the goal of increasing teacher pay.
The board’s executive director, Mike Rush, said the time is right to present the idea to the Legislature.
“The political timing is, I think, the best we’ve had in 20 years,” Rush said.
But teacher after teacher asked the board to slow down the process.
“I feel uncomfortable with things going forward at this pace,” said Steve Button, a social worker with the Lewiston School District.
Button said the proposal is too vague regarding how support personnel such as social workers would be evaluated. Others made similar arguments regarding special education teachers, physical education teachers, librarians, music teachers and drama teachers.
Many of those who took the microphone objected to the use of standardized tests in assessing student growth.
Carolyn Kluss, librarian and language arts department chairwoman at Sacajawea Junior High in Lewiston, said having the new Smarter Balanced Assessment – the standardized test aligned with Common Core – on the list of ways to evaluate teachers doesn’t make sense. The test is still in its pilot phase, Kluss said, and judging a teacher’s success based on such an unknown would be wrong.
“I do not think it’s fair to use it in any way,” she said.
Mark Murdock, a music teacher from Troy, said while fair compensation is important, teachers don’t go into education for the money.
“I’m offended that somebody seems to think I will work harder for more money,” Murdock said.
How hard he works for his students isn’t dependent on or a reflection of a certain level of certification, he said.
Murdock also brought up funding, an issue echoed by several other speakers.
Annette Haag, a teacher from Orofino High School, said it seems likely the Legislature would adopt the licensure piece of the proposal but not fund the career ladder.
For teachers ultimately to see raises of around $8,000, Haag said, the state would have to come up with money it hasn’t seemed to have had.
“Where has this money been hiding for the last several years when my pay has been going backward?” she asked.
Lewiston special education teacher Russ Gee said similar measures have been enacted over the years but left unfunded.
“There’s no guarantee that any of this is going to happen,” Gee said. “It seems a bit pie in the sky.”
Written comments can be submitted until Oct. 22 to tracie.bent@osbe.Idaho.gov.