Idaho’s teachers are the new working poor

Levi B Cavener

Idaho delayed implementation of raising base salary for Gem State educators to $40,000 this year.  Instead, Governor Little lobbied to raise it to only $38,500 with a promise to reaching the $40,000 benchmark next year.

And although much has been made of increasing base salaries of Idaho’s teachers through the tiered licensure initiative, recent work by the Idaho Education Association showed that when adjusted for inflation, Idaho’s teachers have actually lost 6.9% of their compensation when adjusted for inflation in comparison to ten years ago.  We are losing ground, not gaining it.  

Let’s break a paycheck down for a first year Idaho teacher.  The $38,500 breaks down in raw dollars to $3,208 per month. In raw terms, that doesn’t sound so bad.  But let’s do a quick overview of the deductions a teacher’s paycheck will see.

Let’s start with the standard federal income tax deduction.  Accounting for the changes in federal tax law deductions and a bracket at 12%, $2990 will be sent to Uncle Sam this year for income taxes resulting in roughly $250 a month.  The monthly paycheck is now down to $2,958.

Then comes deductions for our country’s entitlement programs, better known as FICA on pay stubs.  It is currently set at 7.65%, meaning $2,945 of these dollars will be sent to Washington DC, or roughly another $250 a month.  Our teacher’s paycheck is now down to $2,708.

Then comes Idaho’s income tax.  Idaho has a graduated tax formula making the math slightly more complicated, but the end result is that the Gem State will want $1687 of this teacher’s salary, or roughly $140 a month.  The monthly check is now lowered to $2,568.

Idaho also requires a contribution to its PERSI program.  For a teacher, that rate is 6.79% or $2,614 resulting in a roughly $220 deduction per month.  Our teacher’s paycheck is now down to $2,348.

Then there’s healthcare.  This line item is negotiated district by district, but as our state and the nation knows, the bottom line is that it is expensive.  Let’s assume this teacher lives in the district I teach in, Vallivue. To purchase family coverage with a $5,000 deductible, the monthly premium will run this teacher $756 per month.  Our teacher’s paycheck just sank to $1,592. Yikes! And heaven forbid the teacher actually ever needs this insurance with the $5k deductible!

But it’s not over.  Let’s assume this teacher did far better than the national average, and only accumulated $15,000 in debt to earn a degree.  At a 10 year repayment plan and current rate of 6.8% interest this teacher can now subtract an additional $173 a month. Take home pay is now just $1419.

Let’s assume this teacher lives in Canyon County to save on rent prices in the Treasure Valley.  According to Zillow, the average rent in Canyon County is $1276.  Let’s assume this teacher somehow finds a steal for $800.  This teacher’s paycheck is now at $619.

Let’s assume monthly utilities for the rental just $100.  Paycheck is now at $519. Then, assume this teacher buys a used car to save cash with a monthly loan payment of just $150.  Take home pay is down to $369. Add in groceries for the month and, well…there’s nothing left.

Idaho teacher salaries are the very definition of the working poor.


10 thoughts on “Idaho’s teachers are the new working poor

  1. DadOfLots

    If you’re going to break it down, factor in that teachers get 4 months off per year (3 in summer, 1 week off each for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Spring break, and various other others days off. Also, teacher’s make more in retirement than they made when working.. Tenure is also a huge factor that makes them special. I have great respect for teachers but I think they are fairly compensated. Divide by 8 and multiply by 12. I’m a product of public education.


    1. Holly

      We are NOT paid for those times off. I repeat- We Are NOT paid for time off. Our salary is calculated per 165 working days and then divided into 12 months so that we literally won’t starve during an unpaid summer. Regardless, most teachers WORK during the summer (planning, classroom work, professional development). We also work a ton over contacted hours during the year, and spend our own money on classroom supplies. This article didn’t even mention childcare, which can be well over $1000 a month. We educate every other profession. Please value us. We aren’t asking to be rich, we are asking to survive.


      1. Toni Burbank

        I love my job, but like other teachers, I would appreciate being compensated more like other professionals with comparable education and experience. Also consider the time most teachers spend, also uncompensated, during the school year. I typically get to school an 60 to 90 minutes before my contract time, and leave on average 60 minutes after. I also spend anywhere from 2-4 hours virtually every weekend in my classroom and many hours during Thanksgiving break, Christmas, spring break, and summer break. And yes, I also spend my own money on my classroom/students. That also doesn’t take into account the time I spend planning and grading at home. If your attorney takes work home or does any work on your case, you can bet money she/he will be billing you for said time. I have been teaching for 23 years, have a BA with an additional 36 credits over and above the those necessary for a standard teaching degree, and almost 70 post graduate credits. I could get a master’s degree, but, because of the way teachers are compensated, if I stayed in the classroom, I would have to earn another 60 credits over what I already have in order to see any increase in pay. With only 12 to 15 years before I retire, is that really practical? As I said, I love my job, but I think it’s high time that we rethink how we compensate our teaching professionals.


    2. Science Teacher

      Tenure just means that there must be cause for termination. You can not be fired because one parent doesn’t like you or your new principal and you clash. It is not a guarantee of a job. It just guarantees that steps must be followed to be dismissed/fired.


    3. Ccm

      I would like to add that I’m not paid for my time off! I would also like to add that I work about 60-70 hours a week but paid for 40 hours a week. There is absolutely no way to fit teaching into a a traditional 40 hour week. On weekends I often spend a few hours grading papers and that is above the 60-70 hours I worked during the week. This summer I had to take courses to keep my license up to date. I don’t get paid for that, in fact I had to pay just about $350 out of my own pocket for professional development to keep my job. I also spent hours reading books help me in my profession and had to buy the books. I began putting my classroom together yesterday because they do not give us time to do that. It takes hours of my own time to prep my classroom, prepare for back to school night, and meet your teacher. Don’t even let me get started that a quarter to half of my kids won’t have school supplies. Guess who ends up buying those because it sure is difficult to have children participating without pencils, crayons, erasers, and scissors. I have my own children to buy school supplies for and other children too. Here is another kicker-I can’t afford to put my children on my insurance for healthcare because it costs almost $700 a month and no body else is going to do it so I have to get assistance. I’m a teacher with a masters degree in a full time plus job with a family that absolutely has to have some assistance to make it. No, I don’t have an elaborate car or house and I chose the career I did. However, you saying you have great respect for teachers when you know absolutely nothing about the industry. Tenure is also an old concept and your understanding of it is false. Each year I have to prove myself and then I’m offered a contract. My position is no safer than yours. I can get dismissed from my job just like you and in the same way you are. So many people just like you think it’s a 8-3 job with lots of vacation time. It’s nothing like that and teachers are constantly trying to make their practice better with great sacrifice of their own time and money. Their families greatly pay for it too!


  2. Robbi

    I am a retired teacher after reaching rule of 90. My retirement is less than half my working pay. I don’t know where Dadoflots got his misinformation. Yes, teachers can find work for the 10 weeks off in summer, if they can schedule it around mandatory classes to keep their teaching licences. Getting other jobs during spring, 1 week, and Christmas, 10 days, breaks is unrealistic. I know teachers who mow lawns, help construction crews, work retail, and teach summer school. Even with extra work, most are still living on tight budgets. Remember, you pay your babysitter more than you pay teachers.


  3. Betsy Cornell

    Great, but sad post! I would also guess that many of these teachers -especially the first year folks- will also spend a chunk of that remaining money on their classrooms. Idaho— come on! You can do better.


  4. Steve

    I would like to see teacher’s pay rise, I feel like they really deserve it! In regards to tenure, I’m not a huge fan. By and large teachers are awesome, but there are a few in every community that probably deserve to be let go. If you don’t believe me, watch “Waiting for Superman”, the amount of money wasted is incredible. Also, Levi you said that 12% income tax would be about $250, but that a 7.65% tax would also be $250… just sayin’


    1. Levi B Cavener Post author

      Hey Steve. The 12% federal tax breakdown includes the new federal standard tax deduction.

      That means the first $12,400 of income is not included as income. Subsequently, the actual federal tax paid is substantially below the actual bracket rate.

      Hope this helps clarify.


  5. Pingback: Let’s pay Idaho lawmakers like 1st year teachers | Idaho's Promise

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