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House, Senate Ed committees ask JFAC to fund leadership awards for teachers next year

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee has begun hearing reports from the chairs of various House and Senate committees on their panels’ recommendations for budgeting, in preparation for the start of agency budget-setting next week. The chairs of the House and Senate Health & Welfare committees started the process off yesterday; this morning, the chairmen of the House and Senate Education committees were up first.

Both Rep. Reed DeMordaunt and Sen. John Goedde called for funding for recommendations from the governor’s education stakeholders task force, on which both serve. Among them: $15.8 million for leadership awards for teachers, in the form of one-time bonuses next year. The House Education Committee will consider introducing a bill this morning to authorize those.

“They are a specific component of the career ladders recommendations” from the task force, DeMordaunt said. “The career ladders recommendations are still in process; we believe that by this time next year, those will be fully baked and ready for our consideration. But there is an aspect that we believe we can move forward on today, and that is the opportunity to provide a premium or an award or bonus or whatever you want to call it, to educators who serve in areas that are above and beyond their normal responsibility, areas such as mentoring for their peers, teaching dual credit courses, things like that. … In the legislation we’re proposing, we provide a fair bit of flexibility for districts out there.”

Goedde told JFAC, “It should be noted that this is not Lake Woebegone, and not every educator is a leader in the field. We recognize that.” His committee also favors boosting the state’s minimum teacher salary to $32,750, at a cost of $10 million next year, and granting classified employees a 2 percent raise. His committee was divided, he said, with some favoring a base pay increase for teachers, too.

The two chairmen said legislation is coming through their committees on other task force recommendations including strategic planning for school districts and advanced learning opportunities for students. Goedde said his committee supports the $14.45 million supplemental request to fund the Idaho Education Network in the absence of federal e-rate funds; if the federal funds show up later, he said, the panel favors sending them to the public education stabilization fund (PESF), a school reserve account. But, he said, “We have concerns … with the expansion of wireless and fiber to elementary and middle schools until we take care of the existing problem that we’ve got.”

A federal review of whether the state’s award of the IEN contract violated procurement rules has held up three-quarters of the funding for the IEN since March, and could end up in no future e-rate funding and requirements to return millions in past funds awarded under Idaho’s IEN contract with Education Networks of America.

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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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