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Luna calls for 5% budget boost for schools next year, decries ballot measures

Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna released his budget request today for the state's schools for next year, calling for a 5.1 percent, $64 million increase in state funding. Luna said he met with stakeholder groups over the summer, including the Idaho School Boards Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators, Idaho Education Association, Idaho Association of School Business Officials and others, to formulate the request; it reflects some of those groups' common priorities, he said, including “backfilling” the 1.67 percent cut in salary funds for teachers and administrators that was imposed in 2011 under the “Students Come First” school reform laws. Restoring that funding next year would mean a $14.8 million increase in base salaries for Idaho teachers, administrators and classified staff from this year's level, Luna said; those base salaries still would remain below 2009 levels, however.

Luna emphasized that the budget proposal fully funds all the reform programs under “Students Come First,” including a $61 million teacher merit-pay bonus program, up from $38.8 million this year, and phasing in laptop computers for all high school students. Under the plan, teachers are to get the computers this fall; the first third of Idaho high school students would get them in the fall of 2013.

The budget request also calls for “unfreezing” one of two years on the state's teacher salary pay grid to provide scheduled increases for teachers who have additional years of experience; that change would cost $6.2 million. Luna said he hopes to remove the other frozen experience step on the grid the following year. He's also proposing a 2 percent increase in discretionary funds to school districts; and small increases in the current level of funding for information technology staff at school districts and for remediation for students falling behind.

Luna held a roundtable meeting with reporters to release the budget request, which now goes to Gov. Butch Otter. But he said it would all change if voters in November reject the “Students Come First” laws by passing three referenda, Propositions 1, 2 and 3. If the measures fail, he said, “Until the Legislature comes to town, we'd have no legal authority to distribute those funds.”

Luna hasn't formulated an alternate plan on how to proceed if the reforms are overturned, which would redirect the money for merit-pay bonuses, laptops and other “Students Come First” programs; that money still could only be spent on education. Luna suggested asking opponents of the reform laws, who collected more than 70,000 signatures to place the three measures on the ballot. “I'm very curious as to what their plan is for managing this disruption,” he said. “We've made it very clear in the past that you cannot cut school budgets in the middle of the school year, and that's what this amounts to.” You can see Luna's full budget request here; click below to read his news release.
  


 

Idaho State Department of Education

www.sde.idaho.gov

 

SUPERINTENDENT LUNA REQUESTS 5% INCREASE IN

FUNDING FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS NEXT YEAR

 

BOISE – Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has requested a 5.1 percent increase in state funding for Idaho’s public schools for the 2013-14 school year, the state’s fiscal year 2014.

I am excited about this budget because it provides Idaho educators with the resources they need to continue improving education for every child across Idaho,” Superintendent Luna said. “Ninety percent of the new funding requested today goes toward increasing compensation and benefits for the employees who are working hard in schools across the state every day.”

The average teacher in Idaho will see a $2,000 increase in total compensation in the current year. Superintendent Luna hopes to increase that further in fiscal year 2014 for teachers as well as other school employees.

State agencies are required to submit budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year to the Governor in early September.

Here are the highlights of Superintendent Luna’s request for a 5.1 percent increase in state funding for Idaho’s public schools next fiscal year:

  • Continues to fully fund all components of Students Come First.

  • $14.8 million: Increase base salaries for Idaho teachers, administrators and classified staff by 1.67 percent, offsetting an FY2012 shift in salary-based apportionment under Idaho Code.

  • $6.2 million: Restore one year of experience that is currently frozen on the grid for Idaho teachers.

  • $22.6 million: Increase funding for statewide pay-for-performance to $61 million. This increase includes new funding to financially reward Idaho teachers for taking on leadership duties and working in hard-to-fill positions. It also includes funding to ensure school-based classified staff, such as paraprofessionals, can participate in schoolwide student achievement bonuses in the future.

  • $8.4 million: Increase to deploy 1:1 laptop devices to high school students in the first one-third of high schools selected statewide. High school teachers and principals statewide will receive 1:1 devices this fall.

  • $1 million: Increase the line item dedicated to District IT staff support at the local level.

  • $1.1 million: Increase the line item dedicated to Remediation, Math Initiative and the Reading Initiative to assist local school districts in implementing the new Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English language arts and the state’s new accountability system, known as the Five-Star Rating System.

The budget request reflects recommendations Superintendent Luna received from representatives of the Idaho School Boards Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators, Idaho Education Association, Idaho Association of School Business Officials and other stakeholder groups in August.

This budget request will now go to the Governor’s office for consideration. The Governor will present his budget request to the Idaho Legislature in January. The Legislature will set the budget for fiscal year 2014 early next year. Fiscal year 2014 begins July 1, 2013.

 

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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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