OPINION: We support students when we support teachers

Wednesday February 19, 2020

When we talk about supporting teachers, we’re really talking about supporting students.

The education a person receives during childhood has a meaningful impact on the kind of life they will lead. And an effective teacher is the primary contributor to student achievement in the classroom.

The foundation for every child’s success starts in the home. But when a student steps foot in a public school, our constitutional and moral obligation to Idaho’s youngest citizens kicks in.

We often hear the saying, “Teachers don’t go into it for the money.” True. But we have relied on teachers’ good hearts for too long to secure a workforce that will educate the next generation of Idahoans.

It is time to make Idaho teacher salaries competitive.

This week, I put a multi-year plan before the Idaho Legislature to raise teacher salaries across the board.

The plan is supported by a broad group of parents, businesses, and education stakeholders.

The plan continues our progress last year when the Legislature and I authorized a salary bump for starting teachers, which helps attract bright minds to pursue careers in education.

Now, we are focused on building a long-term career path so effective educators remain in the profession.

This approach is particularly helpful to school districts in rural Idaho and border communities where cross-border competition for teachers is high. It reduces the burden on property taxpayers, who in many parts of Idaho have shouldered the burden of paying school districts’ operating and personnel costs in order to stay competitive.

I understand that nobody – whether you work in the private, government or nonprofit sector – gets a boost in pay without some measure of accountability to deliver positive outcomes. And I appreciate the Idaho Legislature for ensuring accountability remains a robust factor in any plan to increase teacher pay.

My plan includes a strong accountability system that is focused on student growth and proficiency and advanced professional practice.

Idaho’s young generation gets a big share of my policy priorities as Governor. I often talk about the lens through which I make decisions – I want to make Idaho the place where our children and grandchildren choose to stay. I want my grandkids, who are enrolled in Idaho public schools, to access educational opportunities in Idaho, find good jobs in Idaho, and raise their families in Idaho. I want them to carry on the legacy of our family in Idaho, in whichever way they choose.

We cannot achieve that without offering them and all young people across the state – from Bonners Ferry to Boise to Bear Lake and everywhere in between – the opportunity to learn with a teacher who feels valued, accountable, and equipped with all the tools to do the job effectively.

Increasing teacher pay is an important step to get us there.

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