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Idaho lagged behind neighboring states in teacher compensation last year | Idaho

BOISE — Idaho ranked 36th nationally in three metrics measuring teacher and paraprofessional pay in the 2022-23 school year, according to a recently released ranking from the National Education Association.

The rankings are outdated — and they don't take into account recent state investments in teacher pay. But they provide a look back at how Idaho compares to neighboring states as local schools struggle to recruit and retain teachers.

Last school year, Idaho ranked 36th nationally in teacher starting pay, a significant improvement from 48th place a decade ago. But it still lagged behind most neighboring states when it comes to benchmark salaries in addition to average teacher compensation and paraprofessional pay.

NEA, the national teachers union, annually compiles salary data for the previous school year. The group releases the data in the spring – when school districts are negotiating teacher contracts.

“Modest increases” in teacher salaries have been achieved across the country, the union said in a press release. The average U.S. salary was $69,544 last school year, a 4.1% increase from 2021-22. NEA President Becky Pringle praised unions for demanding “more for their students, more professional respect and more pay.”

On average, Idaho school districts paid teachers $56,365 last school year. That was a 4% increase from 2021 to 2022, and the state moved up two spots in the rankings. Idaho's base salary of $41,179 last school year also fell short of the state average of $44,530.

The Idaho State Board of Education's annual Educator Pipeline Report, most recently released in December, indicated that neighboring states' salaries could be a possible factor affecting retention of Idaho teachers. In Washington, for example, teachers earned an average of $20,439 more last year, according to the NEA rankings.

Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming all paid higher benchmark and average salaries than Idaho last school year. Montana, which ranked last among those states in the other categories, outperformed Idaho in paying paraprofessionals.

Here's how Idaho performed compared to neighboring states in the 2022-23 school year, along with each state's national rankings. The rankings included all 50 states plus Washington, DC

Starting salary as a teacher:

3. Washington $55,631

10. Utah $49,555

14. Wyoming $48,622

22. Nevada $43,695

32. Oregon $42,050

36. Idaho $41,179

51. Montana $34,476

Average teacher salary:

6. Washington $86,804

13. Oregon $72,476

23. Utah $63,481

26. Wyoming $61,797

27. Nevada $61,719

40. Idaho $56,365

42. Montana $55,909

Salary for assistants:

11. Washington $37,334

12. Nevada $36,900

16. Utah $34,893

21. Oregon $33,838

26. Wyoming $31,963

28. Montana $31,642

50. Idaho $26,628

School districts in Idaho rely on state funding to pay teachers and staff, although salaries are set locally.

Madison Hardy, spokeswoman for Gov. Brad Little, said the NEA rankings are based on data collected before Little's “Idaho First” plan increased state funding per teacher by $6,359 during the 2023 legislative session. The investment increased Idaho's average teacher salary by 9.1% to $61,516 this school year. And the average starting teacher salary across all districts is now $45,680.

“Governor Little is proud of the tremendous increases Idaho has advocated for in take-home teacher salaries, including starting teacher salaries, and he will continue to push for investments in Idaho teachers that benefit students and families,” Hardy said by email .

Little has previously said the increases put the state in the top 10 nationally for starting teacher salaries. Idaho Education News revealed why that claim was misleading, including because it relied on even more outdated NEA rankings. Next year's rankings will show how the state fares after the Idaho First pay raises.

Meanwhile, the latest rankings represent an improvement from Idaho's “very bottom” ranking in the recent past, said Layne McInelly, president of the Idaho Education Association. The teachers union leader praised the governor and legislature's efforts to increase teacher salaries, but said Idaho is still “performing far worse than IEA members and other educators in Idaho deserve.”

“All educators deserve pay, benefits and a work environment that reflects the importance of their work to Idaho’s students and families, their personal investment in their discipline and expertise – just as we would expect any professional to receive their value ,” McInelly said via email.

Anna Harden

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