Bill signing

Idaho Gov. Brad Little holds a bill to raise teacher pay to $40,000 by 2020. He signed the bill Wednesday.

BOISE — Gov. Brad Little made good on a promise made during his inaugural State of the State address in January, signing a bill on Wednesday to raise starting teacher pay to $40,000.

“This bill is part of my overarching goal that our kids in Idaho stay in Idaho,” Little said.

Little said that approximately 30 percent of Idaho teachers leave the state in their first three years of teaching; most surrounding states have considerably higher teacher pay.

Due to a funding shortage, the bill will be implemented over the course of two years. Starting pay will go up to $38,500 in the 2019-2020 school year, then will go up to $40,000 in the 2020-2021 school year. Starting pay for Idaho teachers is currently $35,800.

Little cited a poll from Dan Jones & Associates, a Utah-based market research and polling firm, that stated 74 percent of respondents believe Idaho needs to invest more in education.

“We’ve got a long way to go, but the fact is we’re taking the right steps at the right time,” he said. “I do want to particularly thank the legislators that did the work.”

Specifically, Little thanked Rep. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls, for carrying the bill on the House floor.

“It’s been a long time coming that we should have a ‘4’ in front of that beginning salary,” Marshall said.

Marshall said he started his career as a teacher at a salary of $6,500 in the 1970s. Adjusted for inflation, he said that comes out to about $32,000 today.

“I’ve been there, I know just how fun, how exhilarating it is to be in the classroom,” Marshall said.

He said he hopes this will encourage more young people to enter the education field.

Little said he’s been in contact with education departments at universities across the state, noting that the most common concern from students entering the field is pay.

He said it’s especially an issue for border communities such as Lewiston when surrounding states offer higher starting pay to teachers. The teacher shortage in Idaho, he said, is a result of low pay for educators and a strong economy offering lucrative jobs in other sectors.

Little was surrounded by Idaho teachers at the bill signing, who held signs thanking him for this bill.

Jessie Spurgeon, a third-grade teacher at Koelsch Elementary in Boise, said this is an important first step for teachers in Idaho.

“This is an important day for educators across Idaho,” she said. “There’s still progress to be made in compensation and retention of veteran educators.”

Xavier Ward covers Ada County for The Idaho Press. You can follow him on Twitter at @XavierAWard.