Is it a gift—or a trap?
A $59 million plan from the Idaho Department of Education could raise annual salaries for some teachers in the state by thousands of dollars, but to get some of the money, they would have to give up job security.
The Idaho State Teacher Advancement and Recognition System, or I-STARS, plan—proposed last month by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna—would pay teachers more for raising student achievement based on state tests, working in hard-to-fill positions, earning qualifications in multiple subjects, and taking on additional leadership duties.
According to Mr. Luna’s office, a certified teacher could earn as much as $15,600 more a year under the plan—a 50 percent increase over the statewide average minimum teacher salary of $31,000.
The plan, however, also would require that, to be entitled to some increases, teachers give up tenure rights under their existing contracts and enter into new one- to three-year contracts with school districts.
Representatives of the 12,000-member Idaho Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, criticize tying a significant portion of salary increases to a loss of contractual rights.
Gayle Moore, a spokeswoman for the union, said the group was also unhappy with the merit-pay portion of the plan, which would give pay increases of $1,200 to $3,600 a year to certified staff members if their entire schools improved student performance on state tests.
“We do have a concern about that because it is based entirely on one test,” Ms. Moore said. The union has its own plan that would reward teachers who demonstrated increased knowledge and skills.
Melissa McGrath, a spokeswoman for the state education department, said that in formulating the I-STARS plan, department staff members met with the state teachers’ union, parent and administrator groups, and a range of others.
The proposal would require the approval of state legislators, who are next scheduled to meet in January. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, a Republican, has already pledged his support.
A version of this article appeared in the November 07, 2007 edition of Education Week