House Education Committee Chair Reed DeMordaunt (R-Eagle) convinced his committee members to print a bill that would require districts to hire additional teaching staff if their average class sizes were greater than the statewide class size average.
Prior to 2009, local school districts were provided with money specifically targeted for hiring teaching staff. If a district chose to use less than 100% of the funds to hire teaching staff, the district lost the funding. In other words, districts were required to “use it or lose it.” As legislators cut local school district funding during the recession, they provided districts with some flexibility to hire fewer teachers and use the funds to pay for other necessities. In many cases, especially in larger school districts, this flexibility resulted in larger class sizes.
HB 557 would begin to reverse that spending flexibility in what the bill sponsor referred to as a “targeted approach.” The “use it or lose it” flexibility would remain as it currently exists for the 2015 school year. Beginning with the 2016 school year, and each year thereafter, any school district with class sizes greater than the statewide average class size would have their flexibility reduced by 1% each year.
The IEA has historically supported all efforts to ensure that school districts utilize 100% of the funds they receive to hire teachers. Over the past few years, as school budgets have been cut and districts have struggled to access necessary funding, concerns about class sizes have escalated.
Currently, there is no accurate measure of class sizes in Idaho. That’s why the IEA has introduced a bill that would require annual reporting of individual class sizes. This piece of legislation is currently making its way through the legislative process. Until accurate data is available to make informed decisions, we have concerns about legislation that would significantly modify funding policy.
“There is no data; no analysis,” IEA President Penni Cyr told Idaho Education News. “That still needs to be done and we think it is premature to advance a bill without class size data.”