Legislators will have plenty to ponder on the education front as they head home for the weekend. The House and Senate Education Committees heard presentations from several public education constituencies this week, and the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee heard many of those same presentations, as well as one from new Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra.
Ybarra requested a 6.4% increase in public education funding over last year’s levels, and also proposed moving some portions of the budget from line items to discretionary funding. She repeatedly emphasized her preference for local district control over how education funding from the state should be spent. Her JFAC presentation was light on details, which brought about questions from committee members and others. However, House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMourdant, R-Eagle, took the glass-half-full viewpoint, saying that Ybarra’s lack of details gives the legislature a golden opportunity to set the education agenda and budget themselves.
The career ladder situation remains in limbo. A subcommittee of the Governor’s Task Force outlined a proposal aimed at boosting pay for teachers, but with potentially troubling trade-offs. Governor Otter proposed spending $39.1 million to begin the roll out of a career ladder formula, but Ybarra’s budget request only included $25 million for career ladders and she said that she favors a pilot program that would test the concept in a handful of districts. On Friday, both DeMourdant and Senate Education Committee Chair Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, endorsed a statewide approach to rolling out career ladders.
When they return to the capitol next week, legislators will roll up their sleeves and get to work introducing and debating legislation that will frame education policy and funding for the upcoming year. The IEA will continue to work very closely with the legislature, the State Department of Education, and other education stakeholders to advocate for policies that give professional educators the voice and the resources needed to provide a great education for students in Idaho.