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Barry Lehto has been teaching chemistry for 34 years, but he might not get any of the extra money set aside for math and science educators this year by the Utah Legislature.
"They've made it so narrow," the Bingham High School teacher said of the language legislators approved that describes who will be eligible for extra pay designed to attract more math and science teachers. "I don't know if there are any teachers at Bingham that will actually qualify."
Many math and science teachers are now realizing they might not get the $4,100 because of language that seems to narrowly define who is eligible. Some say rather than making the profession more attractive, the extra pay and confusion surrounding it is causing divisiveness among teachers.
"It creates less satisfaction for teachers rather than more," said Barbara Gentry, president of the Utah Science Teachers Association.
As of Wednesday, the Utah Department of Human Resource Management, which is administering the program, was still trying to iron out all the details of who will and will not be eligible for the money, said Jean Mills-Barber, deputy director of the department.
The original law's sponsors - Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, and Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper - say they intended to put limits on who got the money. Hughes said he didn't want to spread the money so thin it wouldn't make a difference.
Stephenson said he hopes to pay math and science teachers more money in the future so their salaries rival what they could make in other professions with math and science degrees. This year's $4,100 is just a start, he said. Teachers can start applying for the money in the fall.
"We have a crisis in America and in Utah in failing to educate, at a proficient level, students in math and the physical sciences," Stephenson said. "The biggest reason for that, in my opinion, is we're not attracting majors in math and physical sciences into teaching careers."
But some educators say the legislation is, so far, doing more harm than good. Jordan Education Association President Robin Frodge said some teachers have already been trying to change which classes they teach so they'll be eligible for the money.
"It pits teacher against teacher," said Bingham science teacher Deborah Brown, who, like Lehto, teaches chemistry part of the day but might not qualify for the money because she majored in biology and education. "None of us is any more important than the other."
Only those who teach physics, chemistry, grades 7 and 8 integrated science and secondary-school-level math course will be eligible, according to the law. And those teachers will only be eligible if they majored in integrated science, chemistry, physics, physical science, general science or math, according to the law.
Many high school science teachers, however, major in one subject and later seek endorsements in other subjects. Teachers earn endorsements by taking additional courses and training.
Lehto, for example, is endorsed to teach chemistry and is considered highly qualified to do so under No Child Left Behind. But decades ago, he majored in biology, not chemistry, so he might not be eligible for the money.
"I think they need to loosen the restrictions and make it a bit broader, make it about experience and success, " Lehto said. He said 80 to 85 percent of his Advanced Placement chemistry students typically pass the AP test.
Math teachers might face a similar situation. Brigham Young University produces the most math teachers in the state, but they mostly major in math education, not math, said Blake Peterson, associate chair of the BYU Department of Mathematics Education.
Now, about 1,000 math and science teachers are estimated to qualify for the extra pay, said Travis Rawlings with the Utah State Office of Education. He could not immediately say how many math and science teachers Utah has overall.
Peterson said legislators should have based the extra pay on endorsements, not majors.
"It doesn't make sense for a person to major in math if they want to teach high school because then they have a whole set of education classes they need to go take," Peterson said.
Stephenson said he believes it is important to have people who major in the subjects they teach in the classroom.
Utah Education Association President Kim Campbell said knowing how to teach is just as important as knowing the subject matter.
"Any first-year teacher can tell you pedagogy and classroom management is important for their success and for students to learn," Campbell said.
For math and science teachers to qualify for up to $4,100 in extra pay next school year, as outlined by SB2, they must, at this point:
* Have a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree.
* Have majored in integrated science, chemistry, physics, physical science, general science or math.
* Hold valid endorsements for the classes they teach.
* Teach integrated science in grade 7 or 8, chemistry, physics, grade level 7 math, grade level 8 math or secondary math.