Budget Surplus Should Lead to Investments in Idaho Students and Educators
With a budget surplus of $70 million in the first two months of the 2020-21 fiscal year and optimism around state revenue growth for the remainder of the year, Governor Little should immediately rescind the nearly $100 million holdback he instituted at the height of the COVID-19 health crisis. As our state’s economy and revenues recover, restoring desperately needed funding for Idaho schools and unfreezing the Career Ladder for educator salaries should be the top priority.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about new necessities for our schools to operate safely and has highlighted some of the shortfalls Idaho schools have been dealing with for years. Dealing with the virus dictates that our schools need more personnel and resources, not less. They need cleaning supplies, staff to clean and disinfect facilities, more bus drivers to ensure physical distancing, a robust pool of substitute teachers to cover for educators who get sick, and better technology to provide online instruction when necessary. Our students have been through a lot, and schools need more counselors to help them with their mental and emotional health as well as medical and nutrition personnel to ensure their physical well-being.
Governor Little has portrayed himself as the “education governor”, and his support of the Advanced Educator Pay law was a step in the right direction. But that boost to veteran teacher pay was frozen with the budget cuts and should be restored immediately now that state revenues are back on solid footing. Many of Idaho’s veteran educators have already been waiting for a decade or more to see an increase in their salaries.
The governor and the Idaho legislature should also emphasize a substantial and ongoing investment in public education when they develop budgets for the 2021-22 school year. While COVID-19 has not disappeared, we have weathered the financial storm and Idaho students and educators deserve to be the number one priority of our top elected officials.