The U.S. Forest Service made an announcement nearly two weeks ago, and the word has begun to spread, especially among the districts expected to be hardest hit.
Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert penned an article on Wednesday outlining the significant cuts some of Idaho’s most rural districts could face as a result of Congress’s failure to reauthorize the nearly 15 year old Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.
The law was previously known as Craig-Wyden after Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and former Idaho Senator Larry Craig—authors of the law. The law was designed to provide a funding safety net of sorts for school districts in timber-heavy areas of the state.
Not all Idaho school districts receive Secure Rural Schools funding, but for some of Idaho’s smallest, rural districts, the funding is critical. In 2014, Idaho schools received more than $28 million. The announcement from the Forest Service estimates the 2015 payment will drop dramatically to just over $2 million.
Frustrated Senate Panel Puts Brakes on Some Education Rules
Each legislative session, germane committees spend the first few weeks of the session reviewing and approving rules. The threshold for passage of the rules is much lower than that for a piece of legislation. Basically, if either the House or the Senate committee officially adopts a rule, it takes effect immediately upon adjournment of the legislature and has the full force and effect of law.
In most instances, the rules review is more of a formality. Only in rare circumstances does a rule get hung up in a committee or rejected by both the House and Senate.
Initially, it appeared that only a few education rules might have a difficult track to implementation. Early on in the session, committee chairs let their members know that two education rules—tiered certification and the dates by which the SBAC would be used as a graduation requirement—would be held until later, signaling that these rules could be in trouble.
Members of the Senate Education Committee have struggled with several other rules. Earlier this week, committee members halted a decision on the definition of LEP because they had concerns about a section of the rule requiring that 95% of all students take the ISAT by Smarter Balanced as a graduation requirement.
On Tuesday, the same panel put a rule regarding Driver’s Education on hold when it became clear that the State Department of Education had not brought in private driver’s education vendors to discuss the rule before bringing the changes to the legislature.
If the legislature does not take action on an individual rule before the end of the session, that rule becomes null and void.
Superintendent Sherri Ybarra to Present Budget at JFAC Tomorrow
Less than a month after being sworn into office, new State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra will make her debut appearance in front of the powerful Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) tomorrow morning. Ybarra will share plans for the upcoming year and her wish list, including the formal presentation of her budget request for K-12 education. She has previously indicated that she will put forth a budget request that includes a 6.4% increase over a year ago, which is less than the 7.4% increase requested by Governor Otter. Ybarra will also face questions from the committee regarding the specifics of her budget proposal.
JFAC has been hearing presentations and budget requests this week from a number of groups and institutions, including each of Idaho’s public universities and the community college system. All of these groups are pointing out that their funding is down significantly from pre-recession levels, and are asking for additional appropriations. JFAC will review all of the budget requests and make decisions regarding how much money to allocate for public education and how to split up the available money among the various parties.