In this bargaining season, will teachers’ salary increases meet expectations?

Some teachers already know what kind of increase they can expect this year.

In Nampa, administrators and union negotiators are just beginning to talk about dollars.

School districts and charters in Idaho have a boon for teacher salaries: In Nampa, the new money amounts to just over $4 million. At the request of Governor Brad Little, the 2022 Legislature added an additional 10% to teacher compensation. But that doesn’t translate to a 10% increase for every teacher – and that probably won’t be the case in Nampa.

Brian Coffey

“Absolutely, it will be a disappointment,” said Brian Coffey, Nampa High School English teacher and president of the Nampa Education Association. “People’s expectations were exaggerated. … It’s definitely an educational process for our members.

It’s a complicated negotiating season. There’s more money on the table, and there are more moving parts than usual: permanent pay raises, one-time bonuses, changes to health insurance plans.

The legislator’s job is done. Lawmakers distribute the dollars, such as the additional $104 million for salaries. But in a local-control state, it’s up to local negotiators to work out the details.

Money for raises

In Twin Falls, the extra money helped move the process along, Superintendent Brady Dickinson said. After three bargaining sessions, the district and the local teachers’ union reached an agreement. Between salary increases and one-time allowances, teachers should see increases in the range of 8% to 9%.

Brady Dickinson

“We’re just taking them one year at a time,” Dickinson said Wednesday, the morning after the school board and union ratified the deal. “I think it’s always easier to negotiate when there is money available.”

The Idaho Falls District settled two weeks ago. Teacher salaries will increase by an average of 5% and full-time employees will receive at least $1,500 in bonuses.

The negotiations at West Ada were a unique process. After just one meeting, the two sides reached an agreement that will increase teachers’ salaries by an average of 6.28%.

But even where things have moved quickly, negotiators have had to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Little and the Legislature hit their bottom line of $104 million using a mix of state tax dollars and one-time federal coronavirus aid, and that’s where it gets tricky. Using one-time money for ongoing payroll costs is a budgeting third rail, and districts like Twin Falls and West Ada have avoided it.

At the suggestion of the State Department of Education, Twin Falls put its share or federal aid into one-time stipends. West Ada’s federal dollars will go into $1,500 bonuses for teachers, which will be released later this year. The bonuses aren’t built into the local pay structure — and the idea is to avoid a budget crisis, when the flow of federal coronavirus aid to states and schools inevitably dries up.

money for insurance

Meanwhile, negotiators are working on another big issue regarding take-home pay for all school employees: what to do with insurance benefits?

In addition to the $104 million for pay raises, the Legislature invested $180 million of one-time and ongoing money in health insurance — hoping to bring school employee coverage in line with the state employee benefits. That leaves local negotiators wondering whether to use that money to buy into the state’s low-premium, high-benefit insurance plan.

West Ada isn’t joining the state’s plan, but Idaho’s largest school district is using its share of the $180 million to cut premiums. Families will pay $550 a month for insurance, up from the $1,063 a month they pay now — and that savings extends to all district employees, not just teachers, the spokesperson said of the district, Greg Wilson.

Similarly, Twin Falls is using its money to bolster its existing insurance plan, while trying to decide whether or not to join the state plan. Schools have a two-year window to use state money to join the plan, so Twin Falls will take some time to consider options, Dickinson said.

Money for mentoring

But there is another wrinkle. Twin Falls used a small portion of state money for insurance benefits to continue awarding “leadership bonuses” — bonuses the state has paid to reward teachers who take on additional responsibilities. . The state is phasing out the $17.9 million-a-year leadership bonus program to offset rising insurance costs, but Twin Falls wants to keep the bonuses in place for now. “We were really sad to see the ones that got eliminated at the state level,” Dickinson said.

In Coeur d’Alene — where negotiators haven’t started working on salaries — the loss of leadership bonuses is creating a $650,000 hole. The district used the money to encourage teachers to fill hard-to-fill positions, such as special education. So Coeur d’Alene could use some of its federal coronavirus relief dollars to provide bonuses next year, spokesman Scott Maben said.

Will all of this keep teachers in Idaho?

This is obviously hope. By pumping new money into salaries and benefits, Little and lawmakers want to encourage teachers to take jobs in Idaho and stay.

But Idaho’s teacher shortage is a crisis that has been brewing for years, and the actions of a single legislative session won’t reverse it.

In Twin Falls, geography is a barrier: the Magic Valley neighborhood is two hours from the colleges of Boise State University and Idaho State University. Demography presents another challenge; 40 teachers are retiring this spring. All of this is on top of a shortage of applicants and 70 teaching vacancies. “I’m very worried about filling them all out,” Dickinson said.

In Nampa, the teachers are already leaving. Others could base their decisions on what happens with this year’s negotiations, which resume on June 2.

Administrators offered the biggest possible raise Coffey had seen in four years as a union negotiator: a 3.75% pay rise for teachers and a general $2-an-hour raise for all classified employees. . Coffey also notes that the two parties agreed to transfer the employees to the state employee plan, using federal assistance to cover nearly $1 million in start-up costs that the state does not cover.

“Am I satisfied? I don’t know yet,” Coffey said this week. “We try to extract as much water as possible from the rock.”

Kevin Richert writes a weekly analysis on education politics and education policy. Look for his stories every Thursday.

Kevin Richert

About Kevin Richert

A senior journalist and blogger, Kevin Richert specializes in education policy and education policy. He has over 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; “Idaho Reports” on Idaho Public Television; and “Idaho Matters” on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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