State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna presented SB 1199 to the joint hearing this morning of the House and Senate Education committees. He summarized the bill, noting that it sets policy for the public schools budget in two areas, both on just a one-time basis: Authorizing district-directed merit bonuses, and allowing for technology pilot project grants to districts for one to two years.
House and Senate committee members are now asking Luna questions about the bill. Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, questioned whether the bonuses would impact other legislation setting triggers regarding when districts can cut teacher pay from one year to the next. Luna responded, “This $21 million is not an increase to the amount we are spending on teacher compensation.” He noted that in this year’s budget, there was $38 million for teacher merit bonuses, under the now-repealed “Students Come First” laws.
The $21 million for one-time bonuses next year would go out based on individual school districts plans, which could include using up to 40 percent of the money for professional development. Incidentally, the $21 million figure doesn’t appear in SB 1199, which contains no dollar figures; those are left up to JFAC to set, but Luna indicated they’re expected to remain largely the same as those specified in the earlier, Senate-rejected public school budget. That was $21 million for the bonuses and professional development, and $3 million for tech pilot project grants.