Bill to increase MT’s starting-teacher pay advances

State incentive for setting salary at least $34K
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Posted at 5:00 PM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-01 19:39:25-05

HELENA — A proposal to increase starting-teacher pay in Montana won overwhelming endorsement from the state House Monday.

Members voted 97-3 to advance House Bill 143, which would create state incentives for public school districts across Montana to increase starting base pay for teachers to at least $34,000 a year, for their first three years on the job.

“Nothing dictatorial about this bill – just an incentive package to incentivize an increase in the beginning teacher pay,” said its sponsor, Rep. Llew Jones, R-Conrad. “Thus, hopefully more folks will enter the teaching field, and those that do enter the teaching field will stay in Montana.”

The measure, part of Gov. Greg Gianforte’s proposed state budget, now heads to the House Appropriations Committee, where members will review how it fits into overall state spending.

The plan is estimated to cost the state about $3 million a year, once fully implemented.

Jones said median teacher pay in Montana ranks near the middle among the states, but that pay for starting teachers is “dead last.”

Negotiation for contracts is carried out by school districts and experienced teachers, who appear to be better at bargaining pay levels for veteran educators rather than those just starting out, he said.

The bill offers to double the state “quality educator payment” of approximately $3,400 to any school district that pegs starting teacher pay at least 10 times that amount. That payment increases by inflation each year.

Larger school districts – those with at least 6,500 students – would have to pay starting teachers at least 70 percent of the district’s median teacher salary to get the incentive.

“Now, (school districts) don’t have to do anything,” Jones said. “But if they wish to receive the incentive, they would need to do this. … If we wish to have beginning teachers say home, we need to consider this type of approach.”