Teacher pay was a major issue in the Idaho Legislature this year and has been top of mind for policy makers, legislators, and citizens in Idaho for some time. 

While Idaho’s quality of education ranks near the middle when compared against other states in the nation, funding per student is second from the bottom: at $6,659 it is just a step above Utah, where funding per student is $6,206.

Salaries and wages are low, and the concern is that talented teachers are leaving Idaho for work elsewhere due to low pay. The number of certified teachers in Idaho has declined 7 percent in the past 5 years, while the number of students has increased 5 percent. The number of applicants for teacher certification in Idaho dropped 27 percent between 2013 and 2014. Increasingly, districts are unable to fill teaching positions.

Idaho’s minimum teacher salary is currently $31,750, which applies to about a third of teachers in the state. The new career ladder pay legislation is meant to reward successful teachers, as well as to raise the minimum salary tier to $37,000 over the course of five years. Successful teachers who earn additional degrees and in essence become “master teachers” would earn additional pay.

The career ladder pay legislation will cost Idaho $125 million over five years to implement. The first salary adjustment is scheduled to occur this July, increasing minimum salaries to $32,700. Teachers will be split into two tiers in terms of determining salary increases—beginning and professional. After eight years, a teacher is presumed to have advanced through the professional teacher levels, and he or she will be eligible to work toward bonuses based on performance.

Idaho & U.S. Housing Market

Housing prices continued to climb in February, both in Idaho and nationally. According to the CoreLogic Home Price Index, home prices increased 0.9 percent in Idaho from January to February, which represented a 5.1-percent rise compared to February 2014. Nationally, home prices increased 1.1 percent in February, which represented a 5.6-percent rise compared to February 2014’s prices. In Idaho, home prices are still 17.6 percent below their September 2007 peak, and home prices nationally are still 12.2 percent below their pre-recession high.

New home sales in February reached a seven-year high, according to data from the Commerce Department. Purchases increased 7.8 percent from January, reaching an annualized rate of 539,000. Much of this increase came in the North region, where January numbers were low because of winter snow storms. According to Patrick Newport, U.S. economist at research firm IHS, “There is a chance of really strong housing numbers, which may be showing up for the first time. But we need two to three months before we can say whether a new trend is being established.” It remains to be seen whether February’s new home sales indicate a trend, or simply a one-month aberration caused by pent-up demand from January’s bad weather. In any case, February’s housing numbers came as a pleasant surprise.