Teaching in Idaho

As the nation’s fourth-fastest-growing state, Idaho is going to be in need of more teachers to keep up with its expanding school population. And since the state also has one of the nation’s best high school graduation rates (at 81 percent), it’s going to need teachers across all grade levels.

Teaching in Idaho has other advantages as well. Idaho is more particular about its education decisions, knowing that just throwing more money at schools will not make them better. Idaho aims to make sure its education budget is applied to the students, teachers, and resources that will promote education, instead of toward extra administrative costs and programs.

What’s the education climate in Idaho?

Idaho recently began implementing a major education initiative called Students Come First. The program aims to make sure that public schools are adapted to the 21st century, provide incentives for developing school leaders and master teachers, and increase both school accountability and parent involvement.

Starting Salaries for Idaho Teachers
  • Elementary School Teacher—$40,563
  • Secondary School Teacher—$41,314
  • By comparison: Average salary in Idaho for all jobs—$34,946

Source: Idaho Department of Labor

In order to adapt to today’s education needs, Students Come First promotes three important goals. First, it’s raising standards to fit college and career needs, and even invites colleges and universities to operate charter schools to provide advanced curriculum. Second, Idaho seeks to advance classroom technology—and is aiming to provide every high school student with a laptop computer. Finally, in order to promote college education, the state pays for dual-credit courses for students who meet graduation requirements early.

The Students Come First initiative also rewards excellent teachers and school principals. In order to attract better teachers, the state has raised the minimum salary, and added salary bonuses for teachers of hard-to-fill subjects such as physics and calculus. Meanwhile, its pay-for-performance plan further increases salaries for those teachers and schools who demonstrate success with their students (as measured by state test scores).

Finally, Students Come First takes several steps to increase school accountability and local involvement in schools. To begin with, state money follows the students; if a student leaves one school to attend another, the money goes with the student instead of staying with the original district. Next, parents are given access to their school district’s financial information, so they can provide better input. Finally, collective bargaining processes have been streamlined, so that local leaders have more flexibility in managing their schools year to year. For example, teachers’ unions still negotiate over salaries, but do not negotiate over things like bell schedules, or the start of the school day.

Teachers’ unions had opposed some parts of Students Come First (particularly the parts that reduced their power), and even after it was passed in April 2011 challenged parts of it in court. However, September of the same year the Idaho courts upheld the legislation.

More information on Students Come First can be found at the Idaho State Department of Education website.

How’s the job outlook for Idaho teachers?

Idaho employs more than 18,000 primary, secondary, and special education teachers. The local school district is in the top five employers in all but one of Idaho’s 44 counties, and the single largest employer in 19 of them. Clearly, education is a major economic driver in Idaho’s economy.

The national economic downturn has slowed the growth of Idaho’s teaching force somewhat; but as the state’s population continues to grow, more teachers will be needed to keep up with increasing school enrollment.

In most other states, pay scales are fixed for all teachers, regardless of subject; consequently, many school districts have trouble finding credentialed math and science teachers. But because of Students Come First, schools in need of more specialized teachers may pay a bonus to teachers willing (and credentialed) to fill those spots. Up to 33 percent of positions may qualify for some type of bonus, with the biggest bonuses going to the hardest-to-fill positions. Currently math, science, music, and special education are the positions most in demand.

Another impact of Students Come First is the elimination of tenure, which simultaneously makes teaching more competitive and opens up opportunities for new teachers. Previously, seniority was the most important factor in determining layoffs; if a school had to lay off teachers, the newest ones were the first to go. But under Students Come First, new teachers who are performing well can be retained, while longstanding but underperforming teachers can be laid off instead.

What benefits do Idaho teachers have?

In addition to the $800 million Idaho spent on teacher salaries in 2009, the state also spent another $254 million on benefits payments. Idaho school districts provide high-quality medical, dental, vision, and term life insurance. An Employee Assistance Program is available to meet the needs of teachers and their families, even to the extent of offering an employer-paid nutrition plan. Teachers are enrolled in the state PERSI (Public Retirement System of Idaho) retirement plan; workshops are available to help teachers plan for retirement, and to provide current information on retirement income. Teachers may retire with a full, unreduced benefit at the age of 65.

Idaho also has a program to forgive student loan debt to qualifying teachers. Full-time students at a qualifying Idaho college or university who maintain a 3.0 GPA and begin teaching in Idaho within two years of graduation may have their entire loan amounts forgiven. Details on the loan forgiveness program can be found at the Idaho State Board of Education website.

Several organizations in Idaho are devoted to teacher development, and to providing educational resources to Idaho teachers. These organizations often publish and discuss research on teaching programs and techniques, and often offer classroom activities or curriculum supplements to help improve teacher (and student) performance.

What are Idaho’s credentialing requirements?

All teachers in Idaho public schools must possess at least a bachelor’s degree and have completed an accredited teacher preparation program, which includes a period of student teaching.

Additionally, obtaining an Idaho teaching credential requires passing the Praxis II examination specific to their credential (i.e. elementary education, mathematics, English, etc.). Application for a teaching credential also involves a criminal background check.

Find additional information about teaching certification in Idaho.