At her inaugural press conference as Idaho’s newest Superintendent of Public Instruction, Sherri Ybarra told reporters that she would unveil her budget request following the State of the State address.
On Tuesday, she shared her request with Idaho Education News reporter Clark Corbin. Corbin reports that Ybarra will be asking legislators for a 6.4 percent increase in public school funding. In contrast, Governor Otter’s recommendation is a 7.4 percent enhancement.
Though the difference between the two requests is under $15 million, how the money is distributed is significant.
The governor’s budget is slightly higher than Ybarra’s and those additional funds are intended to cover the cost of implementing a number of the recommendations coming from the State Board’s Task Force on Improving Education. Under the governor’s proposal, districts would be required to spend the additional funds he is recommending on things like college and career counseling, school board leadership training, and a pilot program on a new mastery-based education system.
The bottom line of Ybarra’s budget request does not appear to increase the amount requested by her predecessor. What separates her request from that of the governor or the former state superintendent is that Ybarra will be asking lawmakers to free up as much as $20 million from any spending requirements and shift those moneys to the discretionary line. By doing so, districts will have the authority to use those additional funds to cover general operating expenses not covered in other areas of the budget.
Operational expenses make up the second-largest area of a school district’s budget (staff salaries make up the largest portion of the education budget each year). For example, school districts use discretionary funds to pay for things such as health insurance increases, textbooks and supplies, additional professional development for staff, additional salary enhancements not covered by the legislature, electricity and heating costs.
It is important to note that while the Otter and Ybarra funding requests would increase per-classroom operational funding, both levels fall short of the $25,696 per classroom level districts were receiving in 2009.