When it comes to paying and keeping teachers, there are wide gaps between Idaho’s haves and have-nots.
Idaho’s new five-year plan to boost teacher pay will not solve this problem. In fact, it could even get worse.
The $125 million career ladder law is designed to narrow the teacher pay gap between Idaho and neighboring states. Within Idaho, teacher salaries are set locally, and results vary widely from district to district. (To see how your local district stacks up, use the searchable table at the bottom of this story.)
Some districts rank high because they have retained a more experienced and better-educated faculty. Some districts can pay more because they have the property tax base to do it. Some pay more in order to compete with neighboring schools.
As the career ladder goes into effect on July 1, some school officials are already worried about the long term. The new state money should help them hire new teachers. They just aren’t sure these teachers will stay.
Defining The Gap
Idaho Education News filed a public records request for 2014-15 salary information collected by the State Department of Education, and calculated average salaries for Idaho’s 115 school districts and 48 charter schools. (Averages were calculated by dividing the number of full-time teaching positions against total salaries paid).
The data provide a snapshot, at the launch of the career ladder. Among our findings:
- Idaho’s average teacher salary is $44,739. In the wealthy Blaine County School District, however, the average salary is 60 percent above the average. In the tiny Pleasant Valley Elementary School district, home to 11 students, its one teacher makes the state minimum of $31,750, 29 percent below the average.
- Similar gaps are found in charter schools. A dozen charters have an average salary topping $50,000, rivaling the top salaries in traditional schools. In 19 charter schools, the average salary comes in under $40,000.
- In North Idaho, districts are scurrying to keep teachers from fleeing for higher-paying jobs in Washington. Nine of the 13 highest average salaries are paid by districts in three border counties: Kootenai, Latah and Nez Perce. Even Lapwai — one of Idaho’s poorest districts, based on free-and-reduced lunch eligibility — pays above the state average. Post Falls district Superintendent Jerry Keane said: “It’s an uphill battle to compete.”