Legislation creating incentives to recruit and retain educators in rural areas is on its way to the Governor’s desk to become law after final approval by lawmakers this week.
Senate Bill 1290 creates a four-year educator grant program for student loan repayments, postgraduate studies and additional teaching endorsements. Payments start at $1,500 the first year and reach $4,500 in year four for educators teaching in a rural district.
“I understand the challenges rural communities face in attracting and retaining teachers,” said Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking (D-Boise), a co-sponsor of the bill, and a former teacher and IEA member who grew up in the Notus-Parma area of Southwest Idaho.
The Idaho Education Association endorsed this legislation and pushed for its approval by lawmakers. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives on a 37-30 vote this Wednesday after the Senate’s Feb. 25 approval on a 25-7 vote.
“We believe that this proposal puts another tool in the toolbox for districts to incentivize educators to serve rural districts,” said IEA President Layne McInelly, who testified in favor of the bill in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. “Along with better pay and better insurance, both of which we are confident the legislature will give educators this year, Senate Bill 1290 helps Idaho address our chronic educator shortage in an incredibly positive, forward-thinking way.”
Rep. Sally Toone (D-Gooding) said more needs to be done to keep rural districts from bleeding teachers, especially to combat educational setbacks from the pandemic.
“Schools are the center of our rural communities,” said Toone, a career teacher. “And it’s our duty to promote that community livelihood.”