As usual, education topics will be at the forefront of discussion during the upcoming legislative session. Potential action on the recommendations from Idaho’s Public School Funding Formula Committee will certainly bear watching, and both the new Governor, Brad Little, and the returning State Superintendent, Sherri Ybarra, will be unveiling budget proposals early in the session. Here is a brief look at some of the key education issues on our radar.
Public Education Budget. New Governor Brad Little will present his first budget request to the legislature in his State of the State address January 7, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. Little emphasized the need for prioritizing public education funding while on the campaign trail; now we will all be watching to see how he addresses both compensations for professional educators and discretionary funding for districts. Superintendent Sherry Ybarra unveiled her budget proposal this fall, requesting a 6.8% overall increase that includes funding for the fifth and final year of the current Career Ladder plan.
Funding Formula Recommendations. The Funding Formula Committee wrapped up nearly two years of meetings in November, forwarding recommendations for changing how Idaho funds public schools to the legislature. There are still many unanswered questions regarding what the new formula will look like if/when it is adopted, including the status of the Career Ladder salary allocation plan beyond the 2019-20 school year. The recommendations are non-binding, and any decisions regarding changing the current funding model will be made by the Legislature, with analysis and discussion starting in the education committees. Check out our IEA REPORTER story for a recap of the Funding Formula Committee’s final meeting and recommendations.
Vouchers. It will not be at all surprising if another private school voucher bill surfaces during the session. Previous legislation has tried to funnel public funds to private and parochial schools under the guise of “scholarships” or “tax credits”. The IEA and a broad cross-section of education organizations helped prevent such legislation from becoming law last year, but proponents have indicated a desire to bring it forward again. You can read more about the defeat of the private school voucher bill in this previous IEA Hotline.
Notably, a similar voucher/scholarship bill that passed the legislature in Montana was recently ruled unconstitutional. We hope the Idaho legislature will see that private school voucher bills are ill-advised for a number of reasons.
Recruit and Retain. Improving Idaho’s ability to recruit and retain quality educators will continue to be of paramount importance. Increasing compensation, incentivizing teachers in rural area and hard-to-fill subjects, reducing class sizes, decreasing high-stakes testing, and cutting down on bureaucratic red tape are just a few of the ways we can accomplish this. The IEA will be advocating for policies that move us in the right direction as we try to ensure that every student in every school building has a highly-qualified, well-trained teacher.
In December of 2017 Idaho’s Teacher Pipeline Workgroup, which included IEA representation, released a report containing information on the causes of the state’s teacher shortage and a series of recommendations on how to address the issue. Unfortunately, this report was never presented to the education committees during the last session. The State Board unveiled the 2018 Teacher Pipeline Report at its meeting in December. Idaho continues to have one of the highest attrition rates in the nation. In addition, 30% of educators in Idaho leave the classroom within their first five years. The report calls on policymakers to fund supports for the most novice teachers including mentoring and induction programs. The report points out nothing will change until policymakers begin implementing solutions. We hope this report will be presented this year and lawmakers will see that short-term solutions are not fixing the teacher shortage problem.
Education Committees See Changes for 2019
Idaho’s education committees have a new look for the 2019 legislative session. Election results, attrition, and a shuffling of roles have re-shaped the makeup of the committees. The new assignments were announced in early December for the session scheduled to begin January 7, 2019.
Much of the turnover comes in the House Education Committee, which has a new chair and a new vice-chair. Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls will serve as the Committee chair. He has served on the House Education Committee the previous six years. Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, is the new vice-chair. Both Clow and Kerby were in attendance for many of the Funding Formula Committee meetings.
The remainder of the House Education Committee, with asterisks denoting legislators who are new to the Committee.
*Rep. Chris Abernathy, D-Pocatello
*Rep. Steve Berch, D-Boise
Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale
Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle
Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls
*Rep. Bill Goesling, R-Moscow
*Rep. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls
Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City
Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene
Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Challis
*Rep. Jerald Raymond, R-Menan
Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins
Rep. Tony Wisniewski, R-Post Falls
On the Senate side, Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, returns as the Committee chair. There are three new members on the Committee, including Sen. Don Cheatham, who previously served on the House Education Committee.
Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise
*Sen. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls
Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian
*Sen. Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls
Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett
Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise
Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise
*Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle
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