With the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee scheduled to hear from the education committees Friday and budget-writing to come February 27, Senate Education Committee chair Sen. Dean Mortimer (R-Idaho Falls) gave his committee members a chance to share their opinions about funding priorities and other issues at the end of Tuesday’s meeting. Each of the eight Senators in attendance identified funding the Career Ladder teacher salary appropriation plan as their top priority. “The Career Ladder is important and I would hate to see us stop now,” said Sen. Bob Nonini (R-Coeur d’Alene). “This is a promise we’ve made to the teaching community and education professionals, so we’ve got to keep the five-year plan going,” said Sen. Chuck Winder (R-Boise).
The other major point of discussion was funding for rising health insurance costs, with all the Senators asked by the chair balking at the $15 million-line item proposed by the governor, particularly with an education funding formula committee not yet finished with its work. Senators Nonini and Jim Guthrie (R-Inkom) both expressed concern that the line item would cause insurance companies to raise their rates accordingly. The consensus was that money should go into discretionary funding to give districts more flexibility. “I would rather see it in discretionary, and that’s what the districts that I deal with would prefer,” said Guthrie.
Otter’s Education Budget Increases by $8.5 Million
Largely because of an unexpected enrollment increase in Idaho public schools, Governor Otter’s public school budget proposal has been increased by $8.5 million. Jani Revier, the governor’s budget director, told JFAC Wednesday that Otter prefers to add that money from the general fund, rather than reducing or eliminating funding for other areas. Funding for year three of the Career Ladder is expected to increase from $58 million to $62 million, with the other $4.5 million to be distributed to districts as discretionary funding. Recently revised figures estimate that Idaho will have an additional 99 support units, which are roughly equivalent to classrooms of students. Read more from Betsy Russell in the Spokesman Review.
Funding Formula Committee Issues Report; Looks to the Future
The committee charged with reviewing and possibly overhauling Idaho’s methods for funding education met briefly Wednesday to submit a report on their work up to this point. Co-chairs Sen. Chuck Winder (R-Boise) and Rep. Wendy Horman (R-Idaho Falls) both stressed that the hardest part of the committee’s work remains ahead of them as they try to improve on the current plan, which hasn’t been updated since 1994. Idaho Education News has more on Wednesday’s meeting.
State Board to Reveal Results of Audit on Teacher Evaluations Thursday
The State Board of Education will present its findings on the 2015-16 teacher evaluation process in two presentations Thursday. First, at the State Board meeting, which begins at 8:00 AM at Boise State University. Streaming coverage of that meeting can be found here.
At 3:00 PM the State Board will present the teacher evaluation findings to a joint session of the education committees. Coverage of that meeting is also available online.