Idaho schools Superintendent Jerry Evans is proposing a bonus program for employees in successful school districts and an $80 million borrowing plan to underwrite needed public school construction.
In outlining his agenda for the new Legislature before the House Education Committee, Evans said the annual bonus program would reward all employees from districts whose graduation rates are above average and whose students score above average on three standardized tests."It is an attempt to recognize and reward excellence," Evans said. "It is a tremendously important step that I believe down the road would pay huge dividends."
The proposal is an attempt to augment the fact that state aid to schools is distributed through a formula unaffected by classroom success.
"You get what you reward, and we haven't found a way to reward excellence," he said.
Under his proposal, about $660,000 would be distributed next year to qualifying districts. Evans said he expects 10 percent to 20 percent of the state's 113 districts to qualify.
Bonuses would be earned by all employees and apportioned based on their salaries. Evans said the bonuses would range from $150 to $400 per employee.
"It should be everyone, from the custodian to the bus driver, counselor, administrator and teacher, that is rewarded," he said.
Dick Chilcote, president of the Idaho Education Association, said the teachers union is intrigued by the concept.
"We are continually asked to improve, and, yet, if that occurs, there is very little recognition," Chilcote said.
On the bond proposal, Evans suggested taking $5 million of the estimated $9 million in lottery profits already earmarked for school buildings and matching it equally with school district property-tax revenue.
That would allow the state to issue building bonds worth $80 million next year for construction work over the following two or three years.
"If we're attempting to decrease class size, we simply have to come up with additional classrooms," Evans said.
He said a state survey estimates the school construction backlog at $350 million; three years ago, it was put at $200 million.