News About and For IEA Members.

Got Ideas? →
Submit an IEA Reporter item.

IEA Events →
View the complete calendar.

Facilities Bill Awaits Signature; Trailer Bills Tackle Four-Day School Week

March 29, 2024

A bill directing $150 million in new tax revenue and $75 million in redirected lottery money and sales tax funding to Idaho’s backlog of updates and repairs to school buildings awaits Gov. Brad Little’s signature to become law.

But while House Bill 521 is widely welcomed by education stakeholders, its shortcomings have triggered no less than seven trailer bills to make one of its provisions less onerous to the school districts it’s designed to help.

IEA leaders endorsed the concept as “an important step toward creating equity in Idaho’s public schools” when it was unveiled by Gov. Brad Little at the start of the legislative session. IEA’s lobby team also worked with education stakeholders on House Bill 521’s development and vocally supported it through the legislative process — while also recognizing the bill’s shortcomings.

Specifically, the bill’s stipulation that school districts agree to a five-day school week, unless they meet minimum contract hours in code and instructional day requirements set by the State Board of Education, to access the facility funding has many stakeholders worried.

More than 80 school districts around the state, a majority, currently employ a four-day school week. Each of the seven bills introduced as potential trailers to House Bill 521, the facilities funding bill, attempt to address this issue in some way.

“House 521 huge step forward, but there are legitimate concerns about pieces of bill, like the four-day week, and how they will impact public schools,” said Chris Parri, IEA’s political director. “A real policy discussion about the four-day week would be welcome, but, unfortunately, it’s happening at the expense of adequately funding school facilities. Both issues deserve to be discussed in on their own merit.”

With the 2023 session winding down, it’s unclear whether any of the intended trailer bills have enough time will make it across the finish line before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

House Bill 521 provides $150 million in new state spending annually for school facilities generated by the state’s purchase of a 10-year bond worth $1 billion. The legislation also redirects $50 million in lottery revenue and $25 million in sales tax revenue to a new school district facilities fund added to the facilities fund.

In addition to the four-day school week stipulation, the bill includes other provisions unpopular with some lawmakers, including:

  • Removal of the August election date for school district elections, leaving only the May and November ballot dates in place.
  • Requiring school districts to submit a 10-year facilities plan.
  • Requiring districts’ compliance with the state’s anti-critical race theory law and agree that their job applicants will not be required to sign “written diversity statements.

The bill overcame its last legislative hurdle on last Thursday with a 23-11-1 vote on the Senate floor. House members approved it on Feb. 23 in 63-6-3 vote.

Governor Little is expected to sign it into law.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This