The rubber is hitting the road in the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. The budget-writing panel – which will begin finalizing Fiscal Year 2013 budgets next week – today nailed down a $2.667 billion budget target that is 4.5 percent over this year but $33 million less than what Gov. Butch Otter called for last month. JFAC also voted to give 2 percent ongoing raises to all state employees, but teachers aren’t included.
In other news this week:
• Sen. Dean Cameron (R-Rupert) threw a curve ball into the education budgeting process with the introduction of S1331. The bill, which debuted Wednesday in Cameron’s Senate Finance Committee but will be heard in the Senate Education Committee, would eliminate the scheduled salary-based apportionment shifts for the next four years and compel budget writers to find funding for State Superintendent Tom Luna’s technology and pay-for-performance mandates without taking it from the salary pool. Cameron has 16 co-sponsors in the Senate, almost certainly ensuring its success in that chamber. But the bill faces an uncertain reception in the House, where lawmakers appear far more eager to pass tax cuts than address problems with Luna’s faulty funding mechanism.
• The Senate Education Committee sent three bills to amend the Luna reforms to the full Senate. Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr told the committee Thursday that just as the IEA opposed the original bills, we oppose the amendments on the amending bills (S1327, S1328, and S1329) as well. The three original bills will be on the ballot as Propositions 1, 2, and 3 this November; voting NO on them will overturn the amendments as well.
• The full Senate also will hear S1308, passed Thursday by the Senate Commerce & Human Resources Committee. The IEA supports this bill, which would extend from one year to three years the time allowed to get a new job and transfer accumulated sick leave benefits for any educator who is laid off due to a Reduction in Force.
• On Wednesday, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde (R-Coeur d’Alene) decided to seek an opinion from the Idaho Attorney General’s office on S1297, a bill that puts new limits on Education Support Professionals’ rights to file a grievance. Goedde’s move came after testimony from Idaho Education Association General Counsel Paul Stark and several ESP members. The IEA thanks the ESPs who took time to be at the hearing.
• On Tuesday, the House Education Committee passed HJM008, a memorial sponsored by Rep. Linden Bateman (R-Idaho Falls) requesting that Congress repeal No Child Left Behind. IEA President Cyr testified in support of the measure, though she noted that the IEA supports the original ideas behind the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. A long-overdue ESEA overhaul is starting on Capitol Hill.
• Finally, a Department of Education records release requested by the IEA showed a spike in the number of teachers leaving the profession. The Idaho Statesman today editorialized, “People on both sides of the divisive issue of school reform should be able to agree on one point: An experienced, talented teaching staff is the cornerstone of a good school. When Idaho teachers leave teaching, in growing numbers, that can’t possibly be a desired outcome.”