Tell Your Senator that the Rural Educator Incentive Bill is a “Step in the Right Direction”

Educators in rural areas or high-need areas could get a little extra money to pay for educational costs like student loans or pursuing advanced degrees under legislation introduced by Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking (D-Boise) on Wednesday.

As Idaho Education Association Political Director Chris Parri told lawmakers this week, Senate Bill 1290 “is an additional step in the right direction, along with the insurance proposal you all supported, to keep and attract highly qualified educators to our rural communities.”

Under the bill, eligible educators could receive money to pay off student loans, receive a master’s degree, or get a teaching endorsement in a new subject area. Incentives would max out at $1,500 the first year, and $4,500 in year four.

The Senate Education Committee endorsed the legislation on Tuesday, setting it up for a vote in the full Senate in coming days. Its ultimate success isn’t certain as the vote and discussion in committee illustrated. One committee member, Sen. Lori Den Hartog (R-Meridian) voted against the measure in committee, and Sen. Carl Crabtree (R-Grangeville) indicated he may vote against the bill on Senate floor.

That’s why we need IEA members – all of you – to weigh in with your Senators over the weekend and in advance of the coming vote. Please reach out and tell them that this legislation is badly needed to help recruit and retain educators in Idaho’s rural and high-need areas. With robust support from the IEA family, we could make this important tool a reality.

In testimony to the Senate Education Committee, the IEA was one of several education stakeholder groups to endorse the bill. Only one group, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, spoke against it.

“We believe that this proposal puts another tool in the toolbox for districts to incentivize educators to serve rural districts,” the IEA’s Parri said. “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.”

The full Senate could vote on the bill in the next few days.

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