There were no major surprises as State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra presented her FY-2018 budget request to the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee Thursday. Now that both Ybarra and Governor C.L. (Butch) Otter have made their respective budget proposals, the wheels will start turning more rapidly as the legislature digs in on education funding and policy—with the help of stakeholder groups like the Idaho Education Association. Here is a summary of the IEA position on several key issues Ybarra mentioned that the legislature will be looking at.
- The IEA appreciates the continued support of all concerned in Idaho’s commitment to year three of the Career Ladder salary allocation plan. Ybarra echoed comments from the governor’s office that unexpected enrollment increases will bump the year three investment in teacher compensation from $59 million to around $62 million. Ybarra framed the Career Ladder in terms of “investing in human capital”. In total, Ybarra asked JFAC for a 6.7% increase in public education funding.
- When it comes to discretionary funding, the requests from Ybarra and Otter have a significant difference, with the IEA preferring the approach that the Superintendent takes. Ybarra asked for an increase of $11.6 million in discretionary funding, while Otter asked for $15 million as a line item for health insurance in lieu of an increase in discretionary funds. “It is imperative that we provide local districts with as much financial flexibility as possible,” says IEA President Penni Cyr. “It is also important that we not get out in front of the State Funding Formula Task Force this is charged with developing an education funding formula for the state—they need time and autonomy to do their job.”
- The IEA also supports Ybarra’s request for a 3% CEC increase for classified staff. The governor did not request an increase in classified staff compensation. “Our Education Support Professional (ESP) members play an integral role in caring for and educating our children, and they deserve tangible recognition for their contributions,” says Cyr. “Idaho’s bus drivers, food service workers, custodial staff, and health care professionals have a profound impact on the lives of our students.”
- Ybarra unveiled a statistic that represents a disturbing trend. A survey of 87 of Idaho’s 115 districts showed that 120 teaching positions remain unfilled, and those districts have granted 450 alternative authorizations. “We are concerned about the rampant reliance on alternative authorizations and other shortcuts,” Cyr says. “All of our students deserve to have a teacher who has qualified through education training. Anything less does students a disservice, devalues the time, effort and expense that traditionally certified teachers put into their training, and fails to give them full credit for their experience.