JFAC Increases School Funding by 2% for FY 14
Members of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee approved legislation that will provide about $31.3 million more to public schools next year, representing 2.2% increase in general funds and an overall 2% increase in funding over the current year.
In a motion, sponsored by the co-chairs and vice-chairs of the committee, the committee agreed to:
- Unfreeze the two remaining years on the salary grid;
- Increase the minimum teacher salary from $30,500 to $31,000;
- Increase discretionary funding by 1.5%;
- Increased classroom technology funding; and
- Provide $21 million in one-time funding for locally determined professional development and locally developed achievement awards.
The proposal was not without opposition. A group of five committee members, led by Sen’s. Dean Mortimer (R-Idaho Falls) and Cliff Bayer (R-Boise) were unsuccessful in an attempt to introduce a different plan that would have kept the grid freezes in place and holding general fund spending at the level recommended by Governor Otter.
During debate, Sen. Dean Cameron (R-Rupert) reminded committee members that in the past, when the salary grid was frozen, lawmakers agreed, when it was financially feasible, to restore movement. He also pointed out that even with this budget proposal, salary-based apportionment funding is still 5 to 9 percent lower than the 2009 levels.
Because two sections of the several dozen sections of intent language in the legislation—which are those sections of the bill that further details the purpose and uses of the funds in the budget—had not been vetted by the education committees, Sen. Mortimer asked for and received unanimous approval from the joint committee to keep those intent sections open until Friday, to allow comment from the House and Senate Education committees. The Senate Education Committee began discussing these two sections in today’s meeting and are expected to continue the conversation tomorrow.
What Do the JFAC Decisions Mean for Educators?
- Unfreezing the Salary Grid. School districts will receive an additional $12.37 million in funding to pay for movement on the salary grid. In those cases where teacher and administrator experience was previously frozen, districts will now receive funds to pay for movement on the salary schedule. Those districts that continued to allow for movement on the salary schedule and pay for that movement with supplemental levies will now be made whole by the state.
- Increasing the Minimum Teacher Salary. Minimum teacher salaries hit the apex in 2009, when the state declared that no teacher would make less than $31,750. When the economy plummeted, the minimum teacher salaries followed suit. Over the past few years, there has been an attempt to increase the minimum salary. Though this legislation will not completely reinstate the salary to the 2009 level, it will increase it by $500 to $31,000 for FY 14.
- Increasing Discretionary Funding. Though referred to as discretionary funds, local school districts have little discretion in how to expend these dollars. The last time local school districts received an increase in discretionary funds was 2009. The 1.5% increase in discretionary funding is just under $300 per unit (note: a unit is roughly equal to a classroom).
- Increasing Technology Funding. 40% of the $13.4 million in technology funding will flow directly to school districts to be used for classroom technology needs; a little more than $2.25 million will be used to install, replace, and repair wireless technology in all Idaho public high schools; and $3 million will be used to establish a competitive grant process districts can take part in to fund pilot projects that use technology to improve student achievement.
- Implementing Local Professional Development and Achievement Awards—Up to 40% of the funds from this a one-time $21 million distribution to local school districts can be used to provide professional development and resources to implement the Idaho Core Standards. The remaining funds can be distributed to both certificated and non-certificated staff as Excellence in Achievement Awards. The dispensing of these dollars will be at the sole discretion of the local school district; they can be paid to entire schools, among various groups within a school, and/or to individual employees. All local plans must be approved by the local school board and must assure that the principal and employees were involved in its development. School districts will be required to post their local plans on their websites and report the effectiveness of the plan at the end of the fiscal year.
Senate State Affairs to Reprint Bills
Senate Ed Committee Chair John Goedde (R-CDA) announced to committee members that a handful of bills have been rewritten and will get a third reprint by the Senate State Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
Legislative procedural rules allow only a small number of committees the privilege of printing legislation this late in the session. The Senate Ed Committee is not a privileged committee; however, the bills will be sent back to the Senate Education Committee for a hearing, once printed.
The House Education Committee is set to reprint three additional bills tomorrow morning.
Hearings on the Senate bills may begin next week. The House bills could potentially be scheduled for hearings as early as this week.
We will provide details on each of the bills as soon as they are printed.