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New incentive program aims to raise salaries for early-career teachers in Montana

The Montana Office of Public Instruction says about 19% of school districts in the state are taking part in a new incentive program to raise starting teacher pay next year.

Lawmakers passed the TEACH Act during the 2021 legislative session, which directed $2.5 million to incentivize school districts to raise pay for early career teachers.

The program was a priority for Gov. Greg Gianforte as Montana ranks last in the nation in starting teacher salaries at $33,000 a year. OPI noted that more than 1,600 new teachers were licensed in the state in 2021.

Dennis Parman, director of the Montana Rural Education Association, says it’s a good start to have about 450 teachers seeing a raise.

“I don’t know that I had any set number for an expectation. We’re certainly going to hope that more school districts will engage in this.”

The incentive program offers districts about $3,500 per teacher receiving a raise, but requires that raise to equate to 70% of a mid-career salary in most districts. Teachers in their first three years of teaching are eligible for the bump in pay. Most districts must chip in for teacher raises to receive the money from the state

Parman says the program wasn’t affordable for every district this year, but more could join in the future. He says the raise in pay is important for in-state teachers, but isn’t enough to attract teachers from out of state.

Shaylee began covering state government and politics for Montana Public Radio in August 2020. Originally from Belgrade, Montana, she graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program and previously worked as a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and UM’s Legislative News Service. Please share tips, questions and concerns by emailing