Eye On Boise

Lawmakers question Luna on cuts

lawmakers question supt luna about proposed school budget cuts (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)
lawmakers question supt luna about proposed school budget cuts (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

JFAC members are now asking Supt. Tom Luna questions about his proposed cuts for the public school budget. The first came from JFAC Co-Chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, who wondered if Luna has worked with the House and Senate education committees on changes in state law that would be required to implement some of his cuts. He answered yes, and said most of the cuts would require legislative changes. "I'm grateful for that, because that's the way things should be done," Bell responded. Changes in state law require full public hearings in committees.

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, commended Luna for focusing on preserving the time that teachers spend with students. In nearly 20 years as an elementary school principal, Hammond said, he concluded, "The thing that I would need more than anything else is the people that are working for me. I could live without new textbooks for a year, I could live without the computer purchases." He said it'd also be preferable for workers to take a pay cut than have layoffs. Luna said his proposal for cuts in state funding for pay for teachers and school administrators, implemented as school districts see fit, allows for that.

Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, said, "I'm one that thinks we're not out of the woods yet in this fiscal year." She asked if Luna had looked into what would happen if Idaho needed to drain its public school stabilization fund just to get through the rest of this year; he's proposing using $17 million from the fund next year, plus keeping at least 3 percent of the school budget on reserve in the fund. Luna said his crystal ball is no better than anyone else's. "I think those are decisions we'll have to look at and weigh once we have more information," he said.

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