Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking (D-Boise) failed in her attempt to send HB 206 (http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/legislation/2013/H0206.htm), the charter school facilities funding bill, to the House’s amending order. She hoped the committee would agree to recommend the bill be changed so that no facility funds would be sent to any charter schools that are not at least two years old or do not meet state academic standards.
Rep. Ward-Engelking’s proposal would have eliminated facilities funding for at least five Idaho charter schools that are less than two years old. The original bill which was introduced in the House Education committee earlier this week, now moves back to the House floor for consideration.
The second piece of Charter School legislation, HB 221 (http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/legislation/2013/H0221.htm), which significantly increases the number of potential charter school authorizers, easily passed muster with the House committee.
The IEA was the sole opponent to speak against the legislation, which usurps the work of the governor’s task force and provides a mechanism that potentially allows for Idaho tax dollars to flow to huge out-of-state corporations to oversee newly established charter schools, much like K12 Corporation’s oversight of the Idaho Virtual Academy.
The IEA also noted that HB 221 does a disservice to schools—both charter and traditional schools—by forcing a continued slicing and dicing of the public schools budget into smaller and smaller pieces as these new schools are created. Unless the budget grows at a rate equal to the increased need, all students will eventually lose.
Like its companion bill, HB 221 now moves to the House floor.
ACTION: Contact your House members and urge them to vote NO on HB 206 and HB 221.
Bill Would Change Referendum Law
The public will get a chance to weigh in on SB 1108 (http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/legislation/2013/S1108.htm) tomorrow. The Senate State Affairs Committee will hear this bill, sponsored by Sen. Curt McKenzie (R-Nampa), that would significantly alter the requirements for qualifying an initiative or referendum for the ballot.
Interestingly, this piece of legislation follows on the heels of one of the most notable elections in Idaho history. Prior to 2012, Idaho electors had only qualified referendums for the ballot four other times, leading some to question the motives behind the legislation.
Those who have been involved in referendum or initiative efforts in the past realize that the hurdle to get a question on the ballot in Idaho is no easy task…and if SB 1108 passes, it will be even more difficult.
Currently, Idaho law requires that at least 6 percent of registered Idaho voters statewide sign a petition before a question can be placed on the November ballot. SB 1108 would further raise the bar and require the collection of signatures of not less than 6 percent of registered Idaho voters in 18 of the 35 legislative districts, in addition to assuring that at least 6 percent of all registered voters in Idaho sign on.
The IEA will testify against this legislation.
ACTION: Contact members of the Senate State Affairs Committee NOW and urge them to respect the principle of “one person; one vote” and vote NO on SB 1108.
Public Schools Budget to Get Set Next Week
The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) is on track to set the FY14 Public Schools budget on Monday, March 4th.
Earlier this session, Governor Otter recommended legislators increase school funding by 2%, or $25.6 million. The budget plan he forwarded to JFAC does not include any salary increases for teachers and administrators, nor does it outline how to spend nearly $34 million earmarked for “education reform.”
Superintendent Luna’s request to JFAC was for an additional 3% increase over the current year’s budget. A portion of those new funds would be used to restore 1.67 percent of the teacher pay base and increase the starting teacher salary from $30,500 to $31,000. Under his plan, school districts would also see a slight uptick in discretionary funds for the coming year.
Like the governor’s budget, Supt. Luna’s budget also does not outline how to spend nearly $34 million. However, he did signal in his presentation to JFAC in early February that he would like to see Idaho develop a differentiated pay system.
Committee members are expected to spend Monday morning wrestling with how much money overall to appropriate for public schools and how to divvy the funds among specific programs.