IEA HOTLINE Podcast

2023 State of the State Address

January 11, 2023 Mike Journee Season 1 Episode 5
2023 State of the State Address
IEA HOTLINE Podcast
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IEA HOTLINE Podcast
2023 State of the State Address
Jan 11, 2023 Season 1 Episode 5
Mike Journee

In this episode of IEA's HOTLINE Podcast, we discuss Idaho Gov. Brad Little's recommendation to bring starting teacher salaries into the top 10 among all states — an extraordinary commitment to public education and the future of the state. 

Our  panel discusses Gov. Little's recommended pay raise for both certified educators and classified school employees and the positive impact such an investment will have on learning outcomes for students. 

Joining the conversation are key members of IEA's Lobby Team:

Associate Executive Director Matt Compton
Political Director Chris Parri

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of IEA's HOTLINE Podcast, we discuss Idaho Gov. Brad Little's recommendation to bring starting teacher salaries into the top 10 among all states — an extraordinary commitment to public education and the future of the state. 

Our  panel discusses Gov. Little's recommended pay raise for both certified educators and classified school employees and the positive impact such an investment will have on learning outcomes for students. 

Joining the conversation are key members of IEA's Lobby Team:

Associate Executive Director Matt Compton
Political Director Chris Parri

Mike Journee:

Welcome to education, podcast, a weekly discussion about what's happening at the Idaho legislature around public education and the policy priorities of ies members, IEA members or public school educators from all over the state. They're Idaho's most important education experts, and they use their influence to fight for a free quality and equitable public education for every student in the state. I'm Mike journee, communications director at the IEA and I'll be your host for this episode of hotline. Today, our panel will discuss exciting and ambitious education policy proposals from Governor Brad Little's state of the state addressed on Monday, including vaulting Idaho starting educator salaries into the top 10 among all states. joining me for today's conversation are members of IRAs lobby team, Associate Executive Director Matt Compton and political director, Chris Perry. Hi, guys, thanks again for joining me. And, you know, it was a really exciting day for public education. Yesterday, Governor little made educator pay the centerpiece of a State of the State address. And, in fact, the the quote that all the media picked up on and used and I'm going to use it here too, is we're not backing down from education. We're doubling down. So Chris Perry, do a quick rundown and talk a little bit about governor's that Governor little proposal proposals on educator pay.

Chris Parri:

Yep, it's pretty exciting. So he allocated of the$330 million that were that were appropriated K through 12 schools during the September special session last year. 145 million will go towards raises for teachers all along the career ladder. And that amounts to around $6,359 per cell, or per per educator, which is a big bump, pretty significant. And, you know, related to that, obviously, we have that that the ranking that he's trying to tackle as well, we're currently 41st in the country, for beginning teacher pay. And he wants to leapfrog 30 states and bring us up into the top 10 up there with like Connecticut and some of these other places I really like recognition of, you know, we need more educators. And not only that, but we also know that we're exporting educators out of the state that are, you know, graduating from Idaho universities, this is an investment in keeping them here, growing our educators here, keeping them here, making sure they can start a life here. It's pretty, pretty radical to awesome. It's pretty great.

Matt Compton:

This is interesting in in 2015, when the career ladder was originally introduced, the first rung on on that career ladder was $30,000. That was going to be the starting teacher salary. And that was what the recommendation in 2015 was. That mean that it would have taken several years for us to even get to the$30,000 rung for a starting teacher salary. It wasn't until 2018 When Governor little brought in he had a second or he had his okay if Task Force, which is our kids Idaho's future, which was looking at many of the education issues, where he made the recommendation for starting teacher salary to be $40,000 as a starting teacher salary. With this proposal, he's bumping that all the way to$47,477 for a starting teacher salary. That's fantastic.

Mike Journee:

And it wasn't just certified teachers that he recommended pay raises for right he put together a package of 97 point 4 million and for better pay for classified education employees to that's that's that's huge. It's a big deal for our for our members because of of the important role that these folks play in the smooth running of our schools, right, Chris?

Chris Parri:

Yes, huge. They're like the mortar that holds the school together in a lot of ways, right. And the fewer classified folks you have in the classroom, the more hats that the educator wears, as well. And you know, with the hemorrhage that we've had of classified staff from the state, because people can make, you know, just as much or more working at Panda Express or Chipotle or something. You know, these jobs are tough. And this is a recognition that these are tough jobs. And we need to keep talented people in those jobs to support our teachers. If it's, you know, paraprofessionals or cafeteria workers, bus drivers, those folks, they make the school run and the smoother school runs, the better it is for educators and betters for students.

Matt Compton:

And it was just in December when the office performance evaluation came out with a report on classified employees, indicating that the state would need to allocate $80 million of additional resources just to bring us up to a reasonable pace. So that would be that the state was actually meeting its financial obligations over what districts were paying. And so with the$97.4 million that is being suggested by the governor, he has gone beyond to what the office of performance evaluation has recommended

Chris Parri:

overshooting I mean, that could that could show up in even higher pay, hopefully for classified staff or benefits or other ways to really incentivize them sticking around and helping out.

Mike Journee:

Yeah, that's fantastic. And, you know, Governor little says these investments will lift Idaho starting teacher pay into the top 10 states. So listen to this clip real quick about from his speech and tell us what you think about it.

Unknown:

Great teachers can motivate and change the trajectory of a student's life. That's why my plan boosts starting teacher pay yet again, finally targeting Idaho in the top 10. State for starting teacher pay. When I started this job, four years ago, I was 41st in the country for starting teacher pay. In four short years, we will have catapulted starting teacher pay in Idaho, from the bottom 10 to the top 10. We're also going to grow the salaries of all teachers, including the most experienced ones, to ensure students have classrooms, the classroom support they need. What does this mean for the average teacher? It means a $6,300 pay raise. When we show teachers, we support them, we're showing families their child education is our priority.

Mike Journee:

No matter, Matt, that that speaks directly to what you're just talking about. And the lifting of the hard work that Governor Liddell has done. He does a lot of credit for bringing this proposal forward and for the work that he's done on public education, especially in the current political climate,

Matt Compton:

but he's heard from members over the last handful of years, and particularly through the pandemic, about the dire situation of attracting and retaining highly qualified educators. Now, the state is in a financial position where we can use some of our surplus. We're seeing record growth in our economy. He recognizes that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make historic investments and teacher pay. And he did it.

Chris Parri:

Yeah, it's pretty remarkable. I'm glad the the mics picked up the whoo hoo that I yelled from my office multiple blocks away during that speech, pretty, pretty incredible. Just recommendations overall, it was great to hear.

Mike Journee:

Yeah, so now going into the session, the top policy priorities for AAA members was securing better pay for all educators, certified teachers and classified education professionals. And the governor came right out of the gate with the with those start the session and Matt comp. And I think our members gonna really like this a lot,

Matt Compton:

I certainly hope so we have our Lobby Day coming up in a handful of days plus members who are going to be joining us at the Capitol through the legislative session. And they'll be sharing their stories with lawmakers to ensure that the governor's proposal actually is what makes it into a final budget at the end of the session, because we do know that there's still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done. Legislators have to now embrace this vision, appreciate what he has put forward. And then, you know, execute on it. And it's going to require the IEA and the voices of our members engaging with policymakers to ensure that this happens,

Mike Journee:

right. And this isn't just about better pay for teachers, this is really about better outcomes in the classroom. Right? This is really what this is all about. And I think two crises that that we're facing in Idaho public education, and actually across this country right now, really point to that educator, job vacancies, and then also the student behavioral health and wellness crisis that we're facing. You guys talk a little bit about how these proposals address those would you

Matt Compton:

this gives us a great opportunity to address class size right off the bat, if we're able to hire additional educators plus have more adults in the room with classified employees, then you address behavioral issues, and you make class sizes smaller that right off the bat will help improve the outcomes for educators for students, because there'll be less behavioral issues and teachers will have a significant more one on one time with every one of their students.

Chris Parri:

Right. And I mean, a part of this proposal was well, you know, the discretionary funding and the the cost of these, the investments in salaries and classified staff pay, kind of supplant will open districts up to being able to hire more professional behavioral interventionists and other folks who can step up into those more specialized kind of incidents that you need, you need really to address so that you can cut down on learning loss because we know when there's a behavioral issue in a classroom, sometimes it can shut down the entire classroom. And rather than putting that on the shoulders of educators and administrators, hopefully this opens up districts to be able to address those needs directly.

Mike Journee:

So having state dedicated funding for salaries for certified teachers and for class testified educators, gives them more room in their budget to deal with other things that some of the things are a crisis level as well. Facilities and other things come to mind as as as, as I'm speaking about that. So there's a lot of a lot of room there. So

Matt Compton:

where discretionary money would have been used to repair an age vac system or roof or something like that, but had to get re appropriated so that they can make payroll can now actually be used for those kind of facility improvements that districts have been putting off year over year.

Mike Journee:

Since we're talking about facilities, I just kind of jumped forward a little bit about that. And, you know, he, the need for facility spending, and building security funding was something that we highlighted coming into the session, our members were saying this is a very important thing to them. And the governor made some recommendations for that we didn't really didn't really speak directly to the one direct thing you talked about with school facility security, and he put $20 million toward that. There's also mentioned the 52 point 4 million in discretionary funding that we're putting in the budget, in the governor's putting in his budget, I guess, for for school districts to draw upon, for whatever needs me. The only other thing I think that even comes close to talking about facilities spending is the it money that he suggested and that's that's $30 million, even if every dollar of that $100 million that I just listed off, is still just a drop in the bucket from what we understand to be the needs of facility for facilities and other maintenance things that that happened need to happen across state right, Chris?

Chris Parri:

Yeah. So you know, part of why I'm so excited about this proposal and the way it's structured, with its ongoing investments year over year, this 330 million will go towards better salaries, better pay in discretionary funding. And some of the other things the the reason I like this structure versus dedicating all 330 million even to facilities is that the facilities gap is so big, and it is a one time kind of capital investment. Granted, you know, you have maintenance that goes on all the time, but we have a backlog of close to a billion dollars, if not more than that. For our facilities, that would be much better addressed via one time funding, particularly out of our potentially out of our massive budget surplus, which I think is still $1.5 billion, or something. And, you know, we get federal funds and other kinds of things that we can we can use to improve our facility. So this ongoing money though, being dedicated to keeping great teachers in the classroom, great classified staff in the classroom, I think it's really smart to structure it this way.

Matt Compton:

And districts have been using supplemental levies to help shore up payroll costs over the last decade. So if this creates less of a reliance on those supplemental levies they become because they're operational at this point. If districts don't have to run levies, that means that property taxes go down. And that mean, that means that there's probably a higher willingness from the voting public, to vote for a bond to build more schools that addresses things like, you know, new buildings, or repairs to old buildings. I think that this, that there's the this sets up an opportunity for some pretty significant property tax relief as well,

Chris Parri:

you can get better state funding to your schools and in exchange be less reliant on property taxes at the local level, because we know, districts across the state are voting every year to tax themselves because of the lack of state funding that's going into their building.

Matt Compton:

And it's been the interest of lawmakers for a handful of years to lower property taxes. So they still have the billion and a half dollars that if if they choose to, could put towards a dedicated fund for for building new schools making repairs. And that too, would decrease. First, it would decrease the cost of property taxes on an already overburdened tax population. And at the same time, it's probably a job creator, which would spur some economic growth in Idaho because of you ensuring that Idaho wins. We're working in construction and whatever, you know, that has exponential cascading effects for the economy.

Mike Journee:

Well, the Governor did talk about a few other things besides teacher pay, in his in his speech and his recommendations, and one of them was $27.9 million for health insurance benefits for educators. On top of on top of the work that was done last year around educator health benefits, Matt, is that is that going to is that going to get us to where we need to be on health benefits for educators?

Matt Compton:

Well, I think the additional money for discretionary and the money that's freed up and discretionary will give more districts an opportunity to take a look at the state health care plan and determine if that's the direction that they want to move. They have one more year to take an evaluate to take a look to determine is that you know, in a price comparison, is that advantageous for them to move over there? And that cost be supplemented by the state. So negotiations this year are going to be very interesting and I think that districts are no longer gonna be hot, held between like a rock and a hard spot. But they will have like two gems that they have presented in front of them as opportunities to take hold of.

Chris Parri:

Yeah. One question mark, I think related to the health insurance stuff is that we still have that existing $80 million gap. And this, I think, is this is on top of the investments. So we're hoping that we can find the $80 million elsewhere, the legislature can can fix that, that gap to make sure every person in a school has the has great benefits.

Mike Journee:

So now, one thing that the governor didn't mention, in the speech was afters. And, but he did go out of his way to outline how much school choice exists in Idaho, especially in the public school sphere. And so I just want to I just want to play this clip for you.

Unknown:

We're also third in the nation for education freedom measures and includes spending, school choice, transparency and regulations, whether it's your traditional public school, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academy, academies are homeschooling, hundreds of schooling options are available to Idaho families.

Mike Journee:

Now, that was quite a laundry list of school choice. We talked about the moniker school choice in previous episodes of this and what that means. It's often it's often couched in terms of what we call vouchers with taking public dollars away from public school classrooms for the benefit of private schools. And so as I was curious, he didn't talk about vouchers. But it's kind of the secret that everybody knows that we are going to have some voucher legislation coming forward. I think it's almost certain, especially given his recommendations around salaries, that there's going to be a big push to get vouchers, if nothing else is a trade off for approval of, of those salaries. So so it was was Was he talking about that here? Do you think,

Matt Compton:

you know, he also started this speech talking about, you know, the investments in education as being a moral obligation. And he also cited the Idaho Constitution as a, as a foundation for these investments, it would be very difficult to talk about that moral obligation and the constitutional requirement, and at the same time talk about funding a second unnecessary system of of schools, that being the private schools. And we've said in the past, that the IEA would be more than happy to have a conversation about funding private schools, when we meet at least the low watermark, if not the mid watermark for funding or meeting or adequate needs for, you know, traditional public schools.

Chris Parri:

Yeah, we're not close to that right now. And the idea that we want to cut up a small pie and divvy and make, you know, get divvied up even more is just wild to me. I'm glad you didn't say elephant in the room in the speech that vouchers work because I would have to come out swinging on behalf of elephants, but the like it. I think that the governor is trying to kind of retake the word school choice and bring it out of that public to public dollars to private school tuition kind of conversation, because he's right. I mean, the the heritage foundation of all places, even with Idaho, lacking a voucher program ranked us number three in the country for education, Freedom School Choice, all those different euphemisms that are typically, like you said, dedicated to vouchers. So he is laying out a landscape where we have school choice, but it's a very Idaho specific version of it that meets the needs of rural communities and, and is in the context of a chronically underfunded public education system.

Matt Compton:

And he's learning what we have known for a long time is that while there may be a growing chorus of anti public school voices in the Idaho legislature, that Idaho wins across the board in overwhelming majorities 95%, want to see continued investments in public education, that being if it's in teacher salaries, are ensuring that rural schools have all the resources they need for students to be successful, that that that loud minority at the legislature is not who he is trying to serve. He's serving everyday Idahoans.

Chris Parri:

And I view this as also as a call to folks to basically back this up back this up back this idea of the school choice does not need to be a siphoning it can be a collaborative process. And to bring in the people he is talking to voters, we did the polling they we know voters are on his side on this, our side on this. So yeah, I think to Matt's point earlier, like we're going to need educators lobbying and pushing this through to maintain this velocity and to retake the conversation around school choice,

Matt Compton:

and he's he's recognized over the last handful of years starting in The pandemic and even into now that that students do have needs that their traditional public schools may not be able to meet. Now, if we were to fully fund schools, that would probably no longer be the choice. But when you have the imperative, empowering parents grant that was introduced, during the pandemic, he recognized that families were needing additional resources to meet the needs of that hybrid situation. And then it was continued last year. And then this year, he makes this an ongoing program, because he does recognize that families may need additional auxiliary resources for their students, for their kids, so that they're as successful as possible. And I think that the empowering parents grant services that fantastic and also because it identifies the the lowest income families in Idaho as the highest priority for receiving these grants, and then ratchets up as the as the grant, you know, if there's additional availability that other Idahoans can apply for it, as well.

Chris Parri:

And the thing that like, that I really like about the parent parents grant is the universality of it, it recognizes that every family in Idaho has an interest in their child's education, whether they're a private school, parent, public school, parent, homeschool, whatever, and they can all access these funds. So every every parent can provide good books and Internet and computers and and all of that stuff that that folks are using this for. And isn't just cordoned off to a very specific group of people. You know, or, you know, excluding broad swaths, swaths of parents, it's, it really isn't investment in every home for every parent, every child, unlike a lot of the vouchers programs you see across the country.

Mike Journee:

And he recommended we make it permanent, that another that $30 million go into it.

Matt Compton:

This is this is a$30 million ongoing budgetary line item. So that goes into perpetuity. So parents can count on applying for these grants year over year.

Mike Journee:

Now, having said all that, about the empowering parents grant last year, when it was being negotiated. Voucher advocates did ask the initial draft of the bill included tuition, which, which in our definition is tuition going to go to a private school any to any tuition to wherever the the recipient wants to put those dollars, that that would be an accepted expense that could go toward this that was negotiated out of the bill? Do you guys think we're going to see that come back as part of this discussion around the empowering parents grant this year, and is kind of where we're going to see at least one voucher effort,

Chris Parri:

I think they're going to try and attack vouchers will attack the public education system with a with a voucher proposals from kind of all corners and kind of see what sticks. I think that part of the reason we were able to negotiate the voucher part out of empowering parents in the first place, not easily it took a lot of work. But I think the reason that they still kind of crossed the line, even without the voucher piece is because the the money would be eaten up so quickly by vouchers, or by tuition, within this pot of money that it was it would almost not serve anybody. And last year, there was $50 million that was in the pot of money instead of 30 million. And I think that you know, that's that's part of the argument this year about not allowing tuition to be able to pulled from this because you want this this funding to end up in a home with, you know, with a kid learning with their parents, you don't want it to end up in the coffers of some, you know, you want you want the empowering parents grants, monies to be in Idaho homes. Not in not on a profit spreadsheet or something.

Matt Compton:

If what we've seen in Utah is any indication, when the governor there indicated that he wanted to see additional$6,000 Go towards every educator, his Republican led legislature immediately insisted on the adoption of some kind of voucher program. So I would not be surprised if right out of the gate that the Idaho legislature tried to pin something or attach something to his proposal for increased funds for for teachers. I don't know how that's going to play out. But I understand. You know, I believe that educators and parents will come out hard to ensure that there's a distinct separation between the raises that these educators deserve versus the need to fund a voucher scheme.

Mike Journee:

So Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is traditionally the Idaho Education Association, lobby day and that's when we bring dozens of lawmakers to town, I'm sorry, dozens of educators to town to talk to lawmakers about what's going on. I want to tell their story about what happens in their classrooms on a day to day basis to help influence education policy. And so that's happening this coming Monday. It's really the most important day for education, advocacy, all session really, you know, and, and we're going to spend some time on our next episode talking about what's what happens, we'll talk towards the members and and, and include that in this podcast and have a conversation about that. But, Chris, can you give us a quick rundown of what our members are going to be doing on Monday?

Chris Parri:

So yeah, well, on Sunday, actually, the night before, they're going to have a dinner and a training here in Boise. And we're gonna have great speakers there as well from the legislature, including representative Giuliana Moto, who is the chair of House Education. And Governor Brad little himself will be there to to answer questions about about his proposal and, and put some wind in our sails as we go into the legislature the next day. So on Monday, we will be meeting in the State Capitol building. And from there, we'll kind of give a little bit of a touch and make sure everyone has meetings and logistics are all taken care of and then let educators loose in the building and start meeting with with lawmakers. So

Matt Compton:

one of the one of the reasons I think that this has been so successful year over year, is that while Chris and I are exceptional at our job, extremely talented, we're very talented. It's true. When you have the actual practitioners in in the building, talking and sharing their stories and their Why are there classroom experiences with policymakers that connects so much cleaner and so much more authentic than what we can what we can share. And so not only on on this lobby day, but throughout the legislative session, we will be leveraging the voices of Idaho's professional educators, and to ensure that this legislative session is as successful as it ought to be as laid out by the state of the state.

Chris Parri:

Yeah, Matt and I are kind of like the bumpers that you'll set up at a bowling alley or something. But the educator will be tossing the ball down there to knock those pins over. This is a strange metaphor. But you know, I didn't that.

Mike Journee:

That was a good one. But the you know, their stories make a difference. Lawmakers hear it, and it helps influence policy and it makes policy better. And that's what we're after with this

Matt Compton:

right as people attack education or educators. And they're doing that from afar or from a keyboard. When you have an actual teacher in your office sharing a real story about why they got into the profession. And they're talking about their students and sharing some of the difficulties they're having. It's really hard to disregard that as and chalk it up to you know, what we're hearing in the culture wars these days.

Mike Journee:

And I'll say they've they, those are participating this year. They've picked the excellent time exciting time to be part of our efforts at the Statehouse. It's going to be an interesting year. Yes. Well, thanks, guys. It's been a great conversation. And I look forward to to what's gonna happen with these amazing recommendations that Governor little came forward. It's very exciting, and it's something that both of you should be proud of, because you played a role in helping make this happen over time and as well as our members. Their their influences is as Idaho's most important education experts is is is legit, and then they band together. Good things happen.

Chris Parri:

That's extremely true. Thanks, guys. Thank you. Thank you.

Mike Journee:

Thank you for listening to Idaho education Association's hotline podcast. Thanks as well to our guest, Matt Compton and Chris Perry. Please watch for future updates, but new episodes on IE social media channels or sign up for email updates on our website at Idaho eaa.org. I'm Mike journee. And as always, I hope you join me in thanking Idaho's public school educators for everything they do for our State students, families and public schools.