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January 26, 2003

Director asks JFAC to give teachers at deaf, blind school fair pay

From: Idaho Statesman, ID - 26 Jan 2003

The director of the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind says his 26 teachers earn less than traditional public school educators although they have a stack of state and national certifications.

Angel Ramos, who is hearing-impaired himself, brought his dilemma to the Legislature´s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Friday.

The reason for the disparity: When the Gooding school was established in 1906, the law was written so the Legislature would appropriate money as if the school were an agency.

And the employees in most state departments get pay raises based upon the Legislature´s generosity in any given year. Public school teachers, on the other hand, get raises based upon experience and education on a schedule.

Ramos said nearly all his teachers hold master´s degrees, are skilled at teaching disabled students, must have the same certification as public school teachers and are also required to participate in the national standards movement. He wants his teachers on the same salary schedule as public school educators.

Ramos said he lost four teachers last year because of the low pay, and he is hearing some dissatisfaction again this year about the unfair treatment.

In addition, there are seven vacant positions right now, he said, and the salaries are so low that he cannot entice anyone to take them.

The School for the Deaf and the Blind serves about 800 students statewide.

The governor recommended $7.95 million to run the agency during 2003-04, up by about $500,000. Before the economy plummeted in 2002, the Legislature had appropriated $7.98 million. After the 2002 holdbacks, the agency got $7.23 million.

But despite having less money, Ramos said he has established a signing class for parents of deaf children in Gooding and Boise.

© 2002 The Idaho Statesman