Idaho’s Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee voted unanimously Monday to approve a series of bills that represent a 5.9% increase in general fund investments in K-12 public education. Included in the budget is full-funding of the fourth year of the Career Ladder salary allocation plan to raise compensation levels for professional educators, as well as an increase in discretionary funding to school districts.
In all, JFAC approved an increase of $100 million, which is a 5.9% increase and brings the state general fund investment in public education to $1.785 billion. There are a couple of smaller pieces of the education funding puzzle, including possible increased funding for mastery-based education, that have not yet been addressed, so those figures are not quite final.
Similar to last year, the discretionary funding increase includes money specifically to help districts cover the rising cost of health insurance for employees, but has built-in flexibility that districts have asked for. JFAC approved $11.2 million more in discretionary funding, including $7.2 million targeted at health insurance expenses. Superintendent Sherri Ybarra requested an increase of $19 million in discretionary funding, while the budget proposal submitted by Governor Otter did not include any increase in discretionary funding.
In addition to the Career Ladder and discretionary funding increases, the education budgets for the 2018-2019 fiscal year include a three percent increase in salaries for administrators and classified staff, $10.5 million more for classroom technology, and a $1.7 million increase for literacy proficiency. The budget does not include additional funding for college and career counseling.
In this story from the Spokesman-Review, Betsy Russell has more information, plus quotes from legislators comparing the JFAC budget-setting process for public education to a Thanksgiving dinner. The education budget still must receive final approval from the full legislature.
House Education Committee Again Holds Charter Administrator Bill
For the second consecutive meeting, the House Education Committee ran out of time for testimony and discussion on HB 566, which would significantly loosen restrictions on the experience and qualifications required for administrators hired by public charter schools. IEA President Kari Overall was among those on hand ready to testify when the bill was held because House Education Committee members were due on the House floor. The Idaho Association of School Administrators testified against the legislation, while the co-founder of a charter school voiced support for it in the only testimony taken Monday.
HB 566 would allow charter schools to hire administrators with just a college degree and bypass the current requirement for teaching experience and training in the education field. The IEA opposes this bill because:
- It is unnecessary, as current policy provides school districts and charters the flexibility to hire administrators, as long as they have a plan in place and are moving towards meeting the experience and training requirements
- It would lower the bar for professional administrator standards and potentially decrease the quality of administrators working with our students and overseeing the work of instructors.