House Panel Approves “Brother of HB 307”
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more bizarre, it did. House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt (R-Eagle) began Thursday’s meeting by announcing that he was holding HB 307 in committee (effectively killing it). He further explained to his committee that he would be introducing a new bill, and in an extremely rare turn of events, he also announced that the public would be allowed to testify on his proposal immediately.
Only in very rare circumstances is the public ever allowed to weigh in on legislative concepts before they are printed and assigned a hearing. The rules under which the legislature operates require, except in rare instances, that a bill be printed and that the public be given 24-hour notice prior to a public hearing on the bill. So, today’s activity was exceptional, indeed.
Except for very minor changes, the new bill, HB 325, is very similar to HB 307. Like its predecessor, HB 325 requires school districts to use the 1.67% of salary-based apportionment money (approximately $13 million) reinstated in the public school budget after the repeal of Proposition 3 to either restore days previously lost to furloughs or hire additional staff. The new bill would allow districts to use these funds for restoring teacher salaries only after they first restore days and hire staff positions lost since 2011.
The IEA opposed the original version of this bill and we also oppose HB 325.
Prior to the committee meeting, IEA Executive Director Robin Nettinga distributed committee members with a packet of information to substantiate and verify earlier statements made by teachers and the IEA that teacher salaries have been reduced over the past few years.
However, in another unusual turn of events, acting committee chair Rep. Pete Nielsen (R-Mt. Home) gaveled Nettinga down, and she was unable to clarify how the information included in the packets aligned with HB 325. Typically, a chairman only uses his or her gavel if a member of the public is displaying inappropriate behavior or making flagrant or offensive remarks.
The committee voted 11-4 to send the bill to the floor with a “do pass” recommendation. Only Rep’s. Linden Bateman (R-Idaho Falls), Hy Kloc (D-Boise), Donna Pence (D-Gooding), and Janie Ward-Engelking (D-Boise) opposed the motion. Rep. Rich Wills (R-Glenns Ferry) was absent today.
Senate Education Committee Votes to Amend HB 259
After spending more than four hours on the Senate floor debating a new House-approved piece of state insurance exchange legislation, members of the Senate Education Committee convened to debate several bills late in the afternoon.
The IEA had a keen interest regarding at least one of the bills on their agenda, HB 259. The IEA testified against this ISBA-sponsored legislation, in part, because it allows a school district to stop paying the salary and benefits of any employee if a court order prevents the employee from carrying out his or her contractual duties, and because the bill does not contain a sunset provision.
Following a number of questions and brief committee discussion, the bill was sent to the 14th Order for possible amendment, and IEA General Counsel Paul Stark was invited to assist Sen. Bob Nonini (R-Post Falls) to develop potential amendments for the legislation.
Battle Brews Over Education Funding
The Senate Education Committee voted today to hold HB 65, the bill that makes one-year-only changes to Idaho Code and allows districts to meet their FY13 contractual obligations.
This bill, introduced in late January by Education Committee Chairs Sen. John Goedde (R-CDA) and Rep. Reed DeMordaunt (R-Eagle), assures that school districts will have the funds they need to close out the remainder of this school year. The repeal of the three Propositions required legislative action to appropriate about $30 million before the end of the fiscal year.
HB 65 has been setting in Education Chairman John Goedde’s desk drawer for a month, and today’s action signals it will stay tucked away for a bit longer until a budget deal is struck.
Speaking of Budgets…Public Schools Budget Gets Printed
Each spring, several things occur that signal the legislation session is nearing its end. The lawns around the Capitol begin to turn green, high school pages who volunteer at the Statehouse begin assembling file boxes and stacking them in the House and Senate chambers for lawmakers to use to pack up their belongings, and the public school budget gets a bill number.
The lawns are beginning to green, the boxes will be assembled shortly, and the FY 2014 Public Schools Budget is now officially known as HB 323.
According to the fiscal note, HB 323 will provide nearly $1.6 billion in state, federal and dedicated funds for next school year, representing an approximate 2.0% increase in overall funds. The budget increases support units by 33 to account for the expected growth in Idaho’s student population in the coming year.
HB 323 also unfreezes the two remaining years of experience on the salary grid; increases the minimum teacher salary from $30,500 to $31,000; increases discretionary funds by 1.5% up to $20,000 per support unit; provides $21,000,000 in achievement awards and professional development; and provides $13,400,000 for classroom technology, professional development; and technology pilot projects.