Teacher Protests Arizona

Students return to Oakwood Elementary School in May in Peoria, Arizona, after a statewide Arizona teachers strike ended.

The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy reported Monday that teacher pay in Idaho ranks 43rd in the nation, and Idaho teacher pay is close to the pay in several other states where teachers have gone on strike.

“Teacher compensation has been in the news a lot around the country,” said Lauren Necochea, center director. “That did spur our interest in looking at how Idaho teachers are being compensated and whether we might see something similar happening here.”

The center’s report notes that Idaho identified a teacher career ladder pay plan as a top driver of quality education in 2013, and the state has been phasing in the plan; it’s now in the fourth year of five.

According to the center, teachers in Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma and West Virginia have walked off the job over pay and school funding the past year. Arizona teachers made $101 less a year than Idaho teachers, on average, in 2016-17. Kentucky teachers made $4,835 a year more than Idaho teachers, on average.

Average teacher pay in North Carolina was higher than Idaho’s; averages in Colorado, West Virginia and Oklahoma were slightly lower.

The center also found that teacher pay has lost ground to inflation over the past two decades, and Idaho teachers have lost more by that measure than their counterparts across the nation. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, average teacher pay in inflation-adjusted dollars dropped 1.8 percent from 1999-2000 to 2016-17; in Idaho, it was a 6.8 percent drop. Idaho teacher pay averaged $47,504 a year in 2016-17, according to the report.

The center also found that the number of Idaho teachers who are not fully certified for their subject areas is growing, particularly in rural Idaho, and that one in five Idaho teachers don’t return to their school the following year, an attrition rate that’s nearly 4 percentage points higher than the national average.

“Well-qualified, effective teachers are the most important investment we make in education,” the report said. “Teacher compensation has a positive relationship with teacher retention and student performance, increasing the likelihood that children will finish high school and be prepared for the workforce.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.