One of the most important issues our state legislators are asked to address every year is the education of our children. As conservatives, we believe this is as it should be. Education is better addressed by the state and by local school districts, rather than a far-off federal government. Local communities get to make sure that their values are reflected in the way their children are schooled and the things they learn.
In Idaho, roughly two thirds of the state general budget consists of education funding, and the rest goes to all the other functions of the state government. Last year, a majority in the Legislature approved Gov. Butch Otter’s push to increase teacher salaries, improve technical education, promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) disciplines and make a number of other improvements to Idaho’s education system.
This overhaul was designed to prepare Idaho’s children to become lifelong learners, ready for the 21st century workforce. However, it was also intended to begin a process of placing Idaho’s teachers on a competitive footing with educators in our neighboring states in terms of compensation. Idaho has many great teachers who pour their hearts and souls into their work. The career ladder adopted last year was the first step to recognizing and retaining that excellence. We expect engineers, attorneys and doctors to go where they are paid well, yet some expect teachers to reject this incentive. Idaho must compete in this market like any other. Competition is good.
The minimum starting salary for a teacher in Idaho is now $32,700, and next year, it will increase again. If Idaho legislators keep their word over five years and fund the career ladder properly, the starting teacher salary in Idaho will eventually rise to $37,000, making it much more competitive with our neighboring states. More experienced teachers get a raise under this structure as well.
We understand that simply throwing money at the problem is never the answer by itself. That is why we were encouraged to see last year’s House Bill 296, performance-based legislation that combines competitive salaries with incentives, rewards and accountability as another positive move to help change the way we educate Idaho’s children.
House Bill 296 passed the House 62-8, and passed the Senate 34-0-1.
So … how did your North Idaho legislators vote on this bill?
Aye: Sen. Keough, Sen. Nonini, Sen. Souza, Rep. Cheatham, Rep. Dixon, Rep. Malek, Rep. Mendive, Rep. Redman
Nay: Rep. Barbieri, Rep. McMillan, Rep. Scott, Rep. Sims
Absent: Sen. Vick
By: Sandy Patano, My Turn, cdapress.com