The chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees shared their priorities with the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee Friday, as JFAC prepares to dig in on writing the K-12 education budget, which is expected to be unveiled on February 27. Both Rep. Julie Van Orden (R-Pingree) and Sen. Dean Mortimer (R-Idaho Falls) told JFAC that fully funding year three of the Career Ladder to help Idaho recruit and retain quality teachers was at the top of their wish list. “We need to fund public education in a way that keeps us moving forward,” said Van Orden.
Both chairs also cited rising health care costs for public school employees as their second priority. How to address the issue will be determined in the coming weeks. Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra’s budget plan would put additional money in discretionary funding to give local districts flexibility, while Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s proposal would create a line item to help districts cover health care increases specifically. Mortimer has introduced a bill favoring a line-item approach, while members of his committee were skeptical about that idea when asked about it earlier this week. There will be public testimony on Mortimer’s legislation at Monday’s Senate Education Committee meeting, and President Penni Cyr will share the IEA viewpoint, which leans toward financial flexibility for local districts.
Several legislators have expressed concern that introducing a line item for health care funding might undermine the work being done by a committee looking at Idaho’s education funding formula. There is also speculation that a hybrid plan for addressing health care costs may be in the works.
IEA Members Part of Data Review Committee
A committee working to streamline the state’s data collection process and look at best practices for using and protecting data met Friday at the Capitol. IEA members Peggy Hoy (Twin Falls) and Mary Anne McGrory (Pocatello) are part of the ad hoc committee convened by the State Board of Education. “My major thought is that we need to make sure that relevant data is available to everyone who needs it, and is used to help teachers grow and students achieve,” said Hoy. The committee is looking at ways to reduce the volume of data collected and streamline the process, as well as ensuring that privacy protocols are met. This was their third meeting, with a progress report expected before the end of the current legislative session.