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House debates DeMordaunt bill to tie strings to teacher-pay restoration

House Education Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, told the House that HB 325, his bill to tie strings to how the restored 1.67 percent in salary-based apportionment funds may be spent by school districts next year, is intended “to unroll this in exactly the same way that those cuts are rolled out.” The “Students Come First” law cut 1.67 percent from state teacher salary funds; when those laws were rejected by voters in November, that money was restored to the school budget for next year. DeMordaunt’s bill requires that the restored money go first to two items, adding back positions and school days, both to 2011 levels, before they can be used to restore teacher salaries.

Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, said, “HB 325 dictates how school districts will use the 1.67 percent of salary-based apportionment money that’s reinstated in the public school budget. This bill will allow school districts to use these funds for restoring teacher salaries only after they have first restored all the furlough days and hired staff positions lost since 2011.” Ward-Engelking said every school district handled the cuts differently. “Put this in the hands  of local school districts, let them decide how they need to spend this money,” she said.

Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise, also spoke against the bill. “I believe that the first business is to make these teachers whole,” he said. “We’ve all heard about how discouraged teachers have become, and many of them are leaving their positions or the state to find better jobs.”

Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, debated in favor of the bill. He said he opposed an earlier version of the bill that only permitted the money to be spent for the two purposes. But he said the current version gives districts the flexibility to restore teacher pay. “If you’ve already done these other things, you can bring it back,” he said.

Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, said, “I think indeed the local school district should be trusted to have latitude with these funds.”

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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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