With the stroke of a pen, Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed the Advanced Professional Educator Pay legislation into law on March 31, giving local school districts around the state a much-needed increase in their allocations in order to raise compensation for veteran educators. However, the process to achieve this investment in our most experienced educators was complex and challenging and required collaboration from education stakeholders and considerable input from IEA members. The COVID-19 health crisis has created some uncertainty in all public education funding, including the Career Ladder, so we will have to monitor the situation as Idaho works through an unprecedented and unexpected predicament.
Let’s look back at the timeline that led to this important legislation.
New Legislation Will Help Idaho Retain Veteran Educators
Which brings us to 2020 and the passage of HB 523, the Advanced Professional Educator Pay bill. Introduced by the governor’s Senior Policy Advisor for Education, Greg Wilson, the bill could invest an additional $223 million into allocations to local districts over the next five years, although the COVID-19 crisis might curtail immediate implementation. The legislation passed the sometimes quarrelsome House Education Committee on a unanimous vote and was overwhelmingly supported on both the House and Senate floors.
“Idaho has a teacher retention problem and this bill can be a step toward making our teacher salaries more competitive with surrounding states as well as helping our rural districts retain their experienced educators,” says IEA President Layne McInelly. “We have heard far too often in recent years about educators who are capped at the top of the state’s pay scale and have not seen a raise in several years.”
The new law would increase the top allocation to $63,000 when it has been completely rolled out. It also builds in two additional minimum salaries for the professional and advanced professional rungs. Individual educator salaries will still be negotiated between the school district and the local education association.
Educators must have held a professional endorsement for at least five years to be eligible for the new top rung, along with other stipulations that include student growth metrics, leadership roles, and evaluations by administrators. Trailer legislation also passed that will phase out the Master Educator Premium program. The state will honor three-year MEP commitments from cohorts in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 but will no longer accept new applications. The program will sunset completely on July 1, 2024.
Shared accountability will be a key to the success of the new Career Ladder law, according to McInelly. “It is incumbent upon all education stakeholders to collaborate on efforts to ensure that the thresholds are achievable for as many of our veteran educators as possible,” he says. “Robust professional development, administrator aptitude and accountability, and flexibility on measuring growth and leadership are essential. In short, we must all work together with fidelity in the process, as well as with the intent of the legislation, which is to increase veteran teacher pay and improve educator retention rates.”