Just one day after Gov. Butch Otter delivered his 2012 State of the State and budget message, it appears that instead of Idaho investing more in education, students and teachers may actually face a fourth straight year of cuts.
The governor’s education budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 2013 is $1.53 billion, a 1.5 percent decrease from the FY 2012 appropriation of $1.56 billion. While Otter recommends that the general fund allocation for education increase by 2.6 percent to $1.25 billion, dedicated funds (including Land Board revenue) are down nearly $6.5 million and federal funds have dropped $48.8 million. The federal funding drop is the result of Idaho no longer having most of the one-time stimulus and Education Jobs Bill money that state officials have used to prop up the education budget over the past two years.
Digging deeper, Otter is reducing the salary budget while focusing on the technology mandates and pay-for-performance plan sought by State Superintendent Tom Luna and passed by the 2011 Idaho Legislature. (The reforms are subject to a vote of the people in November 2012.) As Betsy Russell reported today at spokesman.com, Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Co-Chairman Dean Cameron asked Otter’s budget chief Wayne Hammon about how the governor’s recommendation treats salary funding. Russell wrote:
Hammon said it makes no change from existing law, meaning the “Students Come First” law’s requirement to shift money out of the salary fund into technology boosts and merit-pay programs stands. The $31.6 million increase for public schools in the governor’s budget proposal includes $11.2 million for student population growth, and virtually all the rest goes for requirements of the Students Come First law, which phases in laptop computers for every high school student, a new focus on online learning, and teacher merit pay.
State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, a Republican, had requested a $69.3 million, 5.7 percent increase in school funding next year. But he said he was “very happy’ with the governor’s 2.6 percent hike. Luna noted that Otter also proposed one-time, conditional pay boosts for public school teachers that would total $26 million if state revenues hit targets.