Levi B. Cavener

Levi B. Cavener

Wendy Horman’s recent editorial is an unfortunate byproduct of the Idaho Legislature’s repeated inability to acknowledge basic facts about problems plaguing teacher recruitment and retention. Ditto their inability to implement obvious solutions to stop the teacher exodus from our state.

Horman explains why she voted “no” to expand the career ladder for veteran teachers. She writes that she does not “believe it’s the best way to compensate Idaho teachers, especially teachers who serve in rural areas.”

Her solution: “Creative Teacher Compensation Systems.” If you’re scratching your head trying to envision what practical solutions this will provide Idaho educators, join the club. The wording is intentionally designed to confuse people.

“Creative Compensation” is really just code for an unwillingness to actually pay teachers, especially our seasoned veterans, what they are worth.

The fact of the matter is that districts take steps every year to mitigate the damage caused by the legislature. Across the state 93 of the 115 districts now pass so-called “supplemental” levies to make up for our lawmakers’ failure to adequately fund schools and pay educators living wages.

Property owners should be furious at their elected officials for passing the Constitutional buck. Our Constitution requires the state to fund our schools. Instead, the legislature has created a system where property tax owners foot an ever-growing bill through levies.

Idahoans value their public schools, and overwhelmingly vote to increase their own taxes, in part, to better compensate their teachers — even though the responsibility is on the state. Horman refuses to acknowledge this current reality.

The Idaho Teacher Pipeline report prepared annually by the Board of Education indicates just how dire the problem is in the Gem State. One out of ten teachers will call this year their last (much higher than the national average). A third (33%) of new graduates from Idaho colleges and universities with education majors don’t take a teaching job in Idaho, choosing greener pastures in other states.

All the data points to a single factor as the primary catalyst for Idaho’s teacher crisis: lack of competitive compensation. The crisis doesn’t need a “creative approach.” The solution couldn’t be more obvious.

Horman cites “research” by the Idaho Freedom Foundation which states that funding the third rung of the career ladder “might simply lead to over-rewarding veteran teachers.”

Over-rewarding veteran teachers? That must be IFF speak for paying teachers enough to actually put a dent in the current teacher crisis. God forbid Idaho actually pays a salary that attracts and retains the very best educators.

It’s unfortunate that legislators like Horman are taking their cues from special interest groups like the IFF, which has declared our state should not be in the business of public schools. It’s easy not to pay teachers what they are worth if you don’t believe in public education to begin with.

It’s time to end “creative approaches” like the colossal failure of the Master Educator Premium program. If that program proved anything it’s that the Idaho legislature does not believe the bulk of Idaho’s veteran teachers are already master teachers and deserve to be paid accordingly.

Instead, it is time our legislators recognize we’re in a crisis and address the underlying problems. Idaho is simply not providing adequate compensation to our state’s educators. Our state leadership must act with urgency unless hemorrhaging our very best educators is now an accepted status quo.

Levi B. Cavener is a social studies teacher living in Caldwell.

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