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Luna: Cameron’s bill to remove pay cuts from ‘Students Come First’ law is ‘good news’

Here's a statement from state schools Superintendent Tom Luna on Sen. Dean Cameron's bill, introduced today with a slew of cosponsors, to amend Luna's "Students Come First" school reform law to remove cuts in funding each year for teacher salaries: "If there is support for this bill, this is good news because it means that our reform efforts can move forward with full funding and support this year and in future years." Click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.

Idaho bill seeks to restore teacher pay
By JESSIE L. BONNER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Legislation introduced Wednesday would eliminate the part of Idaho's new education laws that shifts money from teacher salaries over the next several years to help fund technology upgrades and merit pay bonuses.

Sen. Dean Cameron's bill won't backfill the $14.7 million being taken this year from employee pay and benefits to help pay for reforms introduced by public schools chief Tom Luna. But it would stop the shifting of money from salaries in future years, he said, leaving lawmakers to come up with the funding for the reforms.

"It forces the responsibility on us to find the funding," said Cameron, R-Rupert.

The shifting of money from funding for salaries to pay for things like classroom technology and teacher pay-for-performance was among the most debated parts of Luna's education reform plan, which was signed into law last year.

The money taken from salaries this year is being used to increase the minimum teacher pay to $30,000, restore salary increases for teachers who further their education and pay for high school students who graduate early to earn college credits.

Idaho is expected to move an additional $19.4 million from salaries in 2013 to help pay for the education reforms. Luna has proposed that lawmakers use additional state revenues to offset the reduction to salaries under his reform.

When presenting his proposed public school budget to lawmakers late last month, Luna said Idaho should offset the $19.4 million reduction to teacher salaries in 2013 before replenishing an education reserve account as the governor had proposed.

Idaho teachers will continue to see the same commitment from him to backfill the money being shifted from their salaries in the future, Luna said. But he said he was not proposing changes to the law so that it would no longer shift money from salaries.

"We're not asking for changes to the law that was passed last year," he said during a Jan. 26 hearing of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Cameron, who co-chairs the Idaho Legislature's budget writing panel and opposed Luna's changes in the 2011 session, said Wednesday that his bill to get rid of the salary reduction formula aimed to "clean up what I thought was an inappropriate step."

Luna reiterated that the goal of his reforms was to better educate students with limited resources.

"If there is support for this bill, this is good news because it means that our reform efforts can move forward with full funding and support this year and in future years," Luna said in a statement.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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