Full funding of year three of the career ladder had been identified as the top funding priority by virtually every person or entity involved in Idaho’s K-12 education budgeting process, so it did not come as a major surprise when the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee approved a budget that includes a $69.1 million increase in allocations for teacher compensation. JFAC also took a swing at addressing rising health insurance costs in public education, opting for a hybrid plan that targets money for that purpose, but does not create another line-item in the budget.
“Funding the Career Ladder represents another positive step forward in Idaho’s efforts to attract and retain high-quality teachers,” said Idaho Education President Penny Cyr in reacting to the JFAC budget. “We still have work to do as a state in creating a culture that values the experience and professionalism of our teachers, but we remain encouraged by the ongoing commitment to the Career Ladder and the prioritizing of students and teachers.”
JFAC also voted 13-6 to accept a proposal by Rep. Wendy Horman (R-Idaho Falls) that increases discretionary funding by 4.1% ($15.9 million), with intent language that puts some of those funds into a “bucket” targeted for increases in health insurance costs, but leaves districts a fair amount of flexibility for utilizing their discretionary dollars. Horman’s plan won out over a line-item proposal floated by Sen. Dean Mortimer (R-Idaho Falls) and the line-item in Governor Otter’s budget request. Horman is also co-chair of the joint committee exploring ways to improve Idaho’s funding formula, which is expected to provide recommendations in the 2018 legislative session.
“Rep. Horman’s plan is the best course of action right now,” said Cyr. “We applaud the efforts of all of the legislators who have worked so hard to find viable and creative solutions to the rising cost of health care for public school employees.”
The JFAC budget also includes a $4.25 million increase in professional development for teachers, with intent language that professional development be incorporated into school’s continuous improvement plans. The budget also includes $6.9 million that will be used to give a 3% raise to classified staff who are not included in the Career Ladder. For more budget specifics and details on the discussion about the health insurance proposals, read Clark Corbin’s story from Idaho Education News. The K-12 budget approved by JFAC must still pass both the full House and the full Senate.
Senate Education Committee Adopts Science Standards—Climate Change Passages Remain Out
Despite vigorous testimony last Thursday encouraging them to reject the proposed science standards approved by the House Education Committee, the Senate Education Committee Monday voted 6-2 to concur with House Ed and approve the standards—minus five sub-sections which refer to climate change. Senators Cherie Buckner-Webb (D-Boise) and Janie Ward Engelking (D-Boise) both voted to reject the standards. With both education committees having approved the temporary rule, it goes into effect immediately. The science standards were adopted as a temporary rule, so they will be brought forward again in the 2018 legislative session.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer elected to hold the rule following Thursday’s testimony, giving time for conversations with the House Education Committee, which showed no signs of changing its position. Senate Education Committee members were concerned about not being able to agree on concurrence with the House Education Committee, which would have forced a return to science standards adopted in 2001.
“I do not believe it was the intent of the legislature not to reject the topic (climate change); we need to study it,” said Senate Education Committee Vice-chairman Steven Thayn (R-Emmett). “We want them re-written for next year. There were some words like ‘overpopulation’ and ‘oversaturation” which lead to conclusions.