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Eye On Boise

Testimony: School funding, state employee pay, restoring PSR, dental cuts

Penni Cyr, president of the Idaho Education Association, urged lawmakers to “keep educators whole before refilling the rainy-day fund.” She said, “We believe now is not the time to refill the state's rainy-day accounts or to make it a priority.” Cyr said the IEA is “glad that Supt. Luna realizes the need to ensure teachers do not suffer” from the salary funding cuts mandated by his Students Come First reforms, and is proposing “backfilling” next year's portion with other funds, but she said she's concerned about the next four years of cuts to salary funds the reform laws require. “This ongoing uncertainty is why the IEA and our allies will urge Idaho voters to overturn the three reforms on the ballot this November, so schools do not face this funding cliff each year,” she said.

Alex Neiwirth, with the Idaho Association of Government Employees, said as the economy improves and brings more job prospects elsewhere, “State employees will be jumping ship in droves. They want a job where they don't lose ground to inflation year after year.” Neiwirth said, “Morale is very low.” He urged support for across-the-board cost-of-living raises for state employees, rather than tax cuts, which he described as “giving away $40 million to top earners on an ongoing basis.”

Dakotah Parsons, a youngster from Victor with autism, told lawmakers, “My PSR worker … is my best friend.” But the hours he's being paid are being cut, the boy said. “I live in a small town and there are not many workers to be my helper.” He said he wants to “continue to learn and grow up and be a scientist. I am an honor roll student. I try really hard to do my best. Please help me.” His mom, Debra Parsons, said she also has an 18-year-old daughter with autism. “She has grown out of all the services available to her, still needs them, isn't entitled to them any more. … She has a mouth full of braces that we just got started on.” But now, with Medicaid cuts, she no longer has non-emergency dental coverage. “The cuts to the Medicaid budget have been devastating to a lot of the people in my community.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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