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Idaho Lawmakers Pass Budget Funding Teacher 'Career-Ladder' Program

Guest post by Jordan Moeny, cross-posted from Teaching Now.

Lawmakers in Idaho passed a seven-part public school budget on Monday without debate and with only a handful of opposing votes, increasing overall school funding in the state by 7.4 percent and setting the stage for higher teacher salaries.

According to the most recent U.S. census data, Idaho is in the bottom fifth of states for per pupil spending, and has one of the lowest average teacher salaries as well. (Statistics vary slightly by source, but Idaho is consistently low-ranked.) State funding for education dropped during the recession, and the new budget would bring spending above 2009 levels for the first time.

This budget has been in the works since January, when republican Gov. Butch Otter laid out a plan to improve Idaho's education system in his State of the State speech, saying that public schools "are essential to the health of our families, our communities, and our economy." Though the budget as passed by the legislature is not identical to the one proposed by Otter, the main structure is the same and he is expected to sign it.

Central to the new budget is funding for the first year of Idaho's new career-ladder program, signed into law last week, which is designed to increase minimum teacher salaries incrementally over the course of the next five years. Provided that the legislature continues to fund the program, new teachers in the 2019-20 school year will earn a minimum salary of $37,000, while teachers with more than three years of experience will make between $42,500 and $50,000, according to Idaho Education News.

For this coming school year, entry-level teachers can expect to make at least $32,700, a 2.9 percent increase over the current minimum. As the budget only relates to money allocated to districts by the state, individual schools would still be able to pay their teachers more than the minimum, should they choose to do so.

The budget would also allocate funds to professional development for teachers, as well as $16.1 million for what Idaho Education News calls "teacher leadership premiums," which would go to teachers who take on mentoring responsibilities and other roles that schools may have trouble filling otherwise.

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