SB 1410, the public school budget, has passed the House on a 54-15 vote; the spending plan, the single largest piece of Idaho's state budget, earlier passed the Senate 31-4 and now heads to Gov. Butch Otter. Under the budget, state general funds for schools would rise 4.6 percent next year, but total funds would be up from this year's reduced level by just 0.4 percent.
Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, spoke out against the budget, saying it still doesn't restore a freeze on the first two years of the teacher salary grid imposed during the state's budget crunch. “Any new teacher coming in to teach for us can look forward to being frozen on the grid for the first three years,” she said. That's saved the state $12.2 million that would have gone to teacher salaries since fiscal year 2011, Ringo said, “to help us meet economic challenges, and I think it's time we dealt with that.”
Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, said under the budget, teachers will benefit from a new merit-pay bonus system, so some will see pay increases beyond what's reflected in Idaho's teacher salary grid. Rep. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, said, “The Department of Health & Welfare is what's eating into the extra funds that we could be putting into education. … I would maintain that if we really want to fund public education the way some people would like to we need to think of ways to improve and reform some other budgets in this state.”