IEA Hotline—March 6, 2020
Bill to Limit School Elections Could Hamstring School Districts
Legislation that would severely limit the ability of school districts to pass critical bonds and levies is still alive at the Capitol. HB 393 would eliminate the election windows in March and August for running school bonds and levies. It is worth noting that this restriction would apply only to schools and not to other circumstances. Every education stakeholder group opposes this bill because of the negative impact it could have on school district budgets.
Idaho remains at or near the bottom in per-pupil funding from the state, which means most districts must run “supplemental” levies for everything from more competitive salaries for teachers to technology and equipment to basic services like transportation and power bills. Many districts set their budgets in the spring and the March election window is crucial in enabling them to accurately project where and how to direct their resources. Idaho Education News reported this week that next Tuesday’s election window has 41 districts running supplemental levies totaling $174 million.
This bill would undermine the potential benefits of HB 523, which would add $223 million in allocations to districts over the next five years, with much of that investment aimed at improving pay for veteran teachers and improving teacher retention rates. HB 523 has passed the house and is now awaiting action from the Senate Education Committee.
Contact the Senate Education Committee and tell them to vote YES on HB 523 to raise teacher salaries and NO on HB 393, which would limit the ability of districts to run bonds and levies.
One member of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle, wrote an opinion piece about the importance of building out the Career Ladder through HB 523.
Guns on Campus Bill is Dangerous
Another concerning piece of legislation is SB 1384, which would allow school employees to concealed carry firearms on school property. Since the only notification required would be telling the school principal, parents would be left in the dark regarding whether a loaded weapon is being carried in their child’s classroom. Having guns in school buildings compromises the safety of students and educators. Not a single law enforcement agency supports this bill.
A hearing on SB 1384 is expected next week in the Senate State Affairs Committee. Contact information for the committee is available here.
JFAC Approves Public School Budgets
Idaho’s Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee swiftly approved the seven budgets that provide funding for public schools during their meeting Tuesday. In total, they approved $1.9 billion for FY 2020-21, with a 4.1 percent increase of $78.7 million over the current year.
The budget calls for $24 million in new funding for the Career Ladder salary allocation plan, which is being referred to as a “true up” to align educators with their respective cells on the Career Ladder. If HB 523 passes the legislature and becomes law, an additional $8-9 million would be added in a trailer bill to cover the new Advanced Professional Educator rung of the Career Ladder.
JFAC also approved $6 million to go toward raising the minimum teacher salary to $40,000 as was directed in legislation pushed by Gov. Brad Little in the 2019 session. And they approved $1 million to provide resources and training related to students’ mental and emotional health, making good on another of the K-12 task force recommendations.
“Idaho is facing a growing crisis in mental and emotional health issues with students, and giving educators and school districts additional resources to help identify, prevent, and treat this problem is a positive step,” says IEA President Layne McInelly. “We are also glad to see the investment in compensation for our veteran educators, although there is much work still to be done on funding education to create the schools our students deserve.”
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