The Idaho Legislature wrapped up its business today, with the Senate adjourning Sine Die (Latin for “without a day”) at 12:38 p.m. and the House following suit less than two hours later.
One of the House’s last acts was passing the public schools budget on a 53-17 vote. From Eye on Boise:
Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, said, “I believe it's not enough money to support public education in Idaho, and I believe that we had other choices.” She said, “We haven't looked at any ways of improving our revenue flow, and we're not doing justice to the children across the state.” Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, warned that while lawmakers pat themselves on the backs for holding the line on taxes, they're pushing local voters to approve property tax increases to bail out struggling local schools. Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, said, “We're funding education based on what individuals and citizens in our state can afford right now. … We have the revenue that we have, and we have to make that work.” The vote sends the budget bill to the governor's desk.
The FY 2012 budget of $1.56 billion, including $1.224 billion in state general funds, represents a $47 million cut over the already depressed level for the current school year. In fact, for an unprecedented third straight year, Idaho schools will lose funding. The FY 2012 budget reduces the money the state sends to school districts to pay for administrator, teacher, and ESP salaries by 1.87 percent. Discretionary funding per classroom would drop by 10 percent from this year's level, meaning a nearly 25 percent drop over the past two years.
All told, cuts to Idaho K-12 public school funding over the past three years total $244 million, or nearly a quarter-billion dollars. Although these cuts have been cushioned by money from the Land Board, the public schools stabilization fund, and the Education Jobs federal funding we fought for last summer, these one-time monies will not be included in future budgets. Our state seems determined to win a Race to the Bottom, even as signs point to a slow but steady economic recovery.
In its final day, the Senate passed all the so-called trailer bills to clean up the Luna laws. The bills included:
House Bill 315 passed 33-2. It would reinstate a portion of the 99 percent protection for school districts for FY 2012 before completely eliminating it in FY 2013. The bill would also do away with the section of SB 1108 that allows school districts to terminate employees after October 1 and provide terminated employees with severance pay.
House Bill 335 passed 21-14 and House Bill 336 passed 19-16, adding emergency clauses to Senate Bills 1108 (the anti-teacher bill) and 1110 (the pay-for-performance bill) to make every part of each bill take effect immediately.
House Bill 345 passed 19-16. It adds an emergency clause and expands the “Use It or Lose It” levels from the 6 percent, 8 percent, and 10 percent levels granted by SB 1184 for FY12, FY13, and FY14 and beyond to 7 percent, 9.5 percent, and 11 percent. This added “flexibility” for districts means districts can use an ever-greater share of funding for purposes other than hiring teachers.
The Senate adjourned without taking up several bills passed this week by the House. House Bill 340, which won 69-1 approval on the House floor Wednesday, would have required that in any year that the state does not fund educational lanes, individual teaching certificates would be extended for that same time period. The IEA pursued this bill as the result of a New Business Item OK’d by the 2010 Delegate Assembly.
A bill to raise the cap on charter schools also died when the Senate adjourned. House Bill 353 passed the House 39-29 on Thursday morning but would not be heard in the Senate. It had been hastily reintroduced today after an earlier version was tabled Wednesday in the wake of an ethics complaint.
This is the final regular Hotline post for the 2011 session. We’ll post a wrap-up in about 10 days, following next week’s IEA Delegate Assembly. Meanwhile, watch the main IEA website for news updates. You can also subscribe to our weekly news digest, EDlines, for hand-picked stories and editorials about education in Idaho and beyond. Click here to sign up.