The North Dakota Education Association is asking the state Legislature to make the minimum starting salary for a new teacher $32,000 per year.
"We think this is a good time for North Dakota to make an investment in education," said NDEA President Dakota Draper. "(The minimum starting salary) needs to go up and it needs to go up significantly."
Draper said NDEA is asking that about $4.7 million in K-12 funding included in HB1319 be specifically targeted toward increasing the starting salaries for beginning teachers. Gov. Jack Dalrymple's budget proposal would raise the starting salary from $22,500, established in 2003, to $27,500, but that increase would impact only about eight small school districts and about 100 teachers total, said Draper. Increasing the starting salary to $32,000 would affect about 97 school districts and 2,300 teachers, by NDEA's estimation.
Draper said the average starting wage for a beginning teacher in the state is already at about $32,000; this move would get all teachers in the state to that starting point.
NDEA surveyed at random 600 North Dakota 2012 voters about starting salaries for teachers. More than 60 percent of those surveyed believed that the starting salary for a teacher should be $36,000 per year or higher, said Draper.
Draper said the higher starting wage will also encourage more teachers to enter the profession. A starting wage of $22,500 is unlikely to appeal to a college student looking at four or more years of higher education, particularly when he or she is likely burdened with student loans, said Draper.
"Raising the minimum teachers' salaries in the state will hopefully help encourage qualified individuals to enter the profession," said Minot Education Association president Lisa Wolf on Wednesday, echoing Draper.
Wolf said the Minot Public Schools' minimum starting salary is already higher than the state minimum. The starting salary in Minot for a teacher with a bachelor's degree and no teaching experience is $36,403 for the 2012-2013 school year.
Draper said HB1319 passed the House and is scheduled for a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday morning in Bismarck. Draper encouraged North Dakota voters to learn more about the legislation and contact their legislators to express their thoughts.