Today, for the second year, the Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee held a public hearing on Idahoans’ budget priorities. Most of several dozen people who testified spoke about cuts to Medicaid. Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr was one of only three people who spoke up on behalf of strong public education.
Penni told JFAC that the IEA supports State Superintendent Tom Luna’s call to backfill the nearly $20 million hole created by his reforms, but she questioned what will happen when the reforms force the same shifts over the next four fiscal years. She also said that the IEA is not opposed to a long-term strategy of refilling rainy-day funds, “but we believe this must be done gradually when local districts are still struggling, class sizes are growing, and most education employees have lost pay and benefits in recent years.” Read Penni’s full comments here.
Scott Nicholson, a Boise businessman who is married to a teacher, told JFAC he believed the new education mandates actually decrease local control over technology and classroom priorities. He spoke about helping maintain his wife’s “antiquated” classroom computer, and said that more and better technology is good, but not at the expense of teaching jobs. Rachael Raue of Nampa advocated for a restoration of funding to both education and Medicaid.
The IEA knows that many Idahoans care about strong schools but were on the job or otherwise unable to attend today’s hearing. Educators’ and parents’ comments are needed. Please share your story about how budget cuts and the new education mandates have affected your classroom or your child’s school experience by submitting them via email to JFAC now.
Also this week:
- A lawsuit was filed in Virginia against K12 Inc., a major campaign contributor to Tom Luna. K12 Inc. operates the Idaho Virtual Academy and iSucceed Virtual High School.
- The House and Senate Education Committees held a joint meeting Tuesday to hear a report from Luna on the reforms he pushed through last year. IEA member Stefani Cook, one of a handful of current classroom teachers on Luna’s Technology Task Force, spoke about how effective technology-based lessons and activities won’t happen by magic but require intensive teacher time and professional development.
- Last Monday, the House Education Committee took up House Bill 406, which would extensively amend an employee records law passed just last year. The bill was tabled after IEA General Counsel Paul Stark expressed strong concerns about the bill, which the IEA contends – if passed – could prove yet another barrier to attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers for Idaho classrooms. The IEA submitted written comments to Rep. JoAn Wood (R-Rigby) and also made several requests to meet with her to help craft potential changes, but no invitation materialized. We will report more when the bill returns. Originally, the committee tabled it for a week, but it is not on the February 6 calendar.