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.