Eye On Boise

Luna praises new school budget

Talking to reporters, Idaho schools Supt. Tom Luna praises the budget state lawmakers set for public schools for next year on Monday morning. (Betsy Russell)
Talking to reporters, Idaho schools Supt. Tom Luna praises the budget state lawmakers set for public schools for next year on Monday morning. (Betsy Russell)

Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna is praising the budget set by JFAC today for public schools. "I think the outlook is very bright, especially when you consider some of the doomsday scenarios," he told reporters.

The budget for schools for next year shows a 4.6 percent increase in state general funds, after a 4 percent decrease last year; total funds, however, are just 0.4 percent above this year's level, due to one-time federal funds that arrived this year. Luna said he felt the budget would be particularly good for teachers, as roughly 31 percent would get a raise due to the increase in the minimum salary for teachers from $30,000 a year to $30,500; and another 21 percent will qualify for an incremental pay boost due to additional years of experience as they move through the state's teacher salary grid. That grid was frozen for two years, and the portion that provides pay boosts for additional education like master's degrees was frozen for one year, but both are back this year and next. (The lost pay boosts during the frozen years weren't made back up; Democrats on JFAC proposed to restore part of that today, but were voted down.)

Luna said in addition to those pay boosts, he estimates that 85 percent of Idaho teachers will get a bonus under the new "Students Come First" merit-pay bonus plan. All told, he's estimating that average teacher pay next year will rise by $2,300.

"We're still going to have about $100 million less than we had just a few years ago for our public schools, but look at how much more we're getting from this," Luna said."We've increased minimum teacher pay ... (and) average teacher pay. ... We're providing historic amounts of money for professional development, historic amounts of money for technology upgrades. We're moving towards a 21st Century classroom ... and a pay-for-performance plan that's second to none in the country. So it's a demonstration that, as we said last year, once the economy improves, and there's more money for education, this is the new education system that we're going to build. And that's what this budget accomplishes."




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Betsy Z. Russell




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