Education

Veteran Idaho teachers may have to wait for $4,000 bonuses after premium decision delayed

Sherri Ybarra speaks to lawmakers about Idaho’s public school funding

Lawmakers gathered for a 'listening session' on a proposal for Idaho's public school funding. Sherri Ybarra spoke during the session.
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Lawmakers gathered for a 'listening session' on a proposal for Idaho's public school funding. Sherri Ybarra spoke during the session.

This story was originally published on IdahoEdNews.org on Aug. 30, 2019.

The State Board of Education won’t hit its Sept. 1 target date to award Idaho’s new master educator premiums.

Now, veteran teachers probably will have to wait until mid-September to get word on their application for a $4,000-a-year bonus.

The reason for the delay: Fellow teachers are still reviewing the 1,400 applications. The State Board received split verdicts on about 300 applications — that is, one reviewer recommended awarding a premium, while a second reviewer did not. Now, third reviewers will have to review those applications and break the ties.

“We are now beginning to get some (applications) back from those acting third evaluators but we won’t have all of them back in time for Sept. 1,” State Board spokesman Mike Keckler said Friday.

The State Board’s master educator premium website says only that teachers will be notified in September.

The master educator premium is designed to reward high-performing veteran teachers with at least eight years’ classroom experience, providing bonuses that could total $12,000 over three years.

The rollout of the program has been fraught with problems.

While more than 1,400 teachers applied for the premiums, thousands of veteran teachers didn’t apply. Between 8,000 and 10,000 teachers probably met the state’s application requirements, according to State Board estimates.

For many veteran teachers, the application process was a turnoff. Teachers needed to submit a detailed portfolio to apply for a share of the money. Idaho’s reigning teacher of the year, Marc Beitia of American Falls High School, was among those who didn’t apply — saying he and many fellow educators simply don’t have the time to fill out a portfolio, a job that has taken some teachers as much as 120 hours.

Technical problems — such as bad links — also slowed the review process, leaving some of the state’s 300 reviewers waiting for portfolios. This forced the State Board to hire two temporary employees to help sort out the applications and the link problems.

And while the master educator premium program has gotten off to a rocky start, Gov. Brad Little’s K-12 task force is discussing other ways to reward veteran teachers.

The task force could propose expanding the teacher salary career ladder, offering top salaries of $60,000. This was a recommendation from 2013, and former Gov. Butch Otter’s K-12 task force. Legislators never funded the $60,000 maximum salary, instead creating the master educator premium.

A co-chair of Little’s task force has criticized the premium program, and the arduous application process that comes with it. “I would never run any company this way,” Boise businessman Bill Gilbert said in July.

 

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