Co-chairs of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee set aside nearly three hours on Thursday to review the public schools budget request, but the hearing was over in about half that amount of time. Overall, Superintendent Ybarra’s budget request would increase public school funding by $87.1 million, a figure well below the governor’s proposed $101 million recommended increase.
The state superintendent introduced her budget by telling JFAC members that her request “…represents my vision for college and career readiness and indicates the direction I intend to take the department over the next four years.” She reiterated several times throughout her presentation that she is a firm believer in local control, and her budget recommendation reflected that.
In one of the few detailed portions of her plan, Supt. Ybarra recommended reducing or eliminating funding in a number of line items such as professional development funds, maintenance for the state instructional management system, administrative evaluation training funds, and funding for content and curriculum. Instead, those funds would go directly to districts to pay for general operating expenses such as employee health insurance costs, textbook purchases, and electricity costs. Under her proposal, school districts would receive nearly $1800 more per classroom than they currently receive. This is significantly more than Governor Otter’s recommendation, but still more than $1500 per classroom unit less than districts were receiving in 2009.
The superintendent told lawmakers one item on her “wish list” is to limit class sizes in K-3 classrooms to ensure students can read at grade level by the end of third grade, estimating the cost of $3 to 5 million. However, the superintendent’s budget document did not include a specific line item request for such an initiative.
The superintendent also requested $25 million for a career ladder pay system and urged that it be implemented in phases beginning with a pilot of nine school districts of varying sizes and at least one charter school. When pressed for more details about her career ladder plan, the superintendent was unable to provide specifics, telling lawmakers to “stay tuned for more details.” No career ladder legislation has yet been introduced, but several plans are expected to emerge during the session.
The superintendent had few other details to present to committee members and following nearly an hour of Q & A, lawmakers were left with very few specifics regarding the superintendent’s request.
In a report by Idaho Education News, JFAC Co-Chair Rep. Maxine Bell (R-Jerome) told reporter Kevin Richert that the education budget that eventually emerges will differ significantly from the budget Supt. Ybarra introduced on Thursday.