The Utah State Legislature has unveiled a bill that could make teaching in the state a six-figure profession, but it's just one of many bills aimed at increasing teacher retention.
On Wednesday, lawmakers in both the Utah House and Senate highlighted a series of bills, including one that identifies the top 25% of Utah teachers and gives them bonuses up to $20,000.
"A teacher who's mid-career in Utah will be able to know when they start, if I am successful at this job and I am able to move up, I can earn $100,000 a year and support my family," said State Sen. Lincoln Fillmore.
The bill carries a whopping $200 million price tag, but if the legislature passes it through, teachers could see pay boosts this summer.
However, compensation is just part of the legislative equation. Another bill sponsored by State Rep. Karen Peterson would allow student teachers to apply for a stipend to help cover their cost of living while working to become full-time teachers.
"We're seeing too many student teachers defer for a semester or a year so they can save money to come back and do their student teaching," the legislator said.
A different bill would create a teacher hotline at the Utah State Board of Education.
"What I've found in the past as I've gone around chatting to teachers is there's red tape in the way, that they just need help navigating and not always are those resources available at the district level," said State Rep. Candice Pierucci.
Her bill also creates a master teaching program and requires districts to provide at least three weeks of paid maternity leave. Right now, some teachers are unable to access leave to have a baby.
"It is a largely female profession and not all teachers have maternity leave available to them as an option," Pierucci added.
Lawmakers insist the bills are all part of an effort to empower teachers. The Utah Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, supports the bill on student teacher stipends, but has yet to take a position on the others.
"We want to listen, we want to try to lift, and we want to try to help these unbelievably talented teachers," said Senate President J. Stuart Adams.
This story was originally published by Darienne DeBrule at Scripps News Salt Lake City.
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