Let’s pay Idaho lawmakers like 1st year teachers

Idaho lawmakers have a pretty good gig going for them in terms of their compensation for a part-time gig.  In fact, the current payout for the 2020 year is $18,415, plus health insurance and PERSI (Idaho’s pension system).

Last year, lawmakers were at their posts inside the State Capitol Building for just 74 days. That equates to $248.85 per day. Not bad huh? And last year went longer than most.

But that’s just the base pay. See, lawmakers also receive generous stipends each day during the session. The payouts range depending on how far the elected official’s district is from Boise, but they are reimbursed for housing, mileage, and food.

Idaho’s base teacher salary is just $38,500. A typical contracted school year is 180 days which works out to be $213.88 per contracted day. And they don’t get perks like an extra check for paying rent, gas, or food. Bummer.

But wait! Idaho lawmakers say they work outside the session as well, and I should take that into account? Well, teachers also put substantial work in outside their contracted hours.

Let’s make a very conservative estimate and suggest that for every contracted day, a teacher works an additional 2 hours outside of school.

That equates to an additional 360 hours. Assuming an 8 hour day, that’s an additional 45 days we can tack onto a teacher’s work time bringing the total from 180 to 225 days.

If we redo the math with this more accurate measure of time teachers spend working, pay drops substantially. $38,500 / 225 days = just $171.11 per day. 

And that’s before we add on federal taxes, state taxes, health insurance, PERSI, FICA, etc. Take home pay shrinks pretty quick once we tack those on.  Once the bills are paid, there is literally nothing left.  As I have written before, Idaho’s teachers are the very definition of the working poor.

So here’s my pitch to Idaho’s lawmakers this session: If our state can only afford to pay poverty wages to the professionals teaching our children, then they should be beholden to the same compensation.  

No more stipends for housing during the session until teachers can realistically pay their own rent without getting a second job. No more food vouchers until teachers make enough to not visit the local food pantry each week. No more mileage reimbursements until teachers can afford to put gas in their own tanks.

Better yet, let’s withhold some of their pay and have them generate a massive portfolio to be evaluated by their colleagues each year to prove their competency in their job.  If the Master Educator Premium is such a good program passed by the legislature, then they should have a similar program for themselves.

Fair enough?


2 thoughts on “Let’s pay Idaho lawmakers like 1st year teachers

  1. North Idaho-Resident

    Probably should do better homework on legislative pay. The errors discount your message of better pay for teachers which I agree with. However the math and facts on legislative compensation (not to mention work hours-another commonality with teachers)is off. Be factual with your opinions as the facts support your work.


    1. Levi B Cavener Post author

      The blog post links directly to the current Idaho legislative pay. That document also includes additional items I did not include such as a yearly stipend to travel the district they represent. If anything, it is much higher.

      Is there a specific example of a number that is inaccurate?



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