The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee split 9-9 this morning, killing a motion to boost funding for professional-technical education equally, by 15 percent, for all high school programs. Instead, the committee then voted 16-2 for a competing motion to give a much bigger boost to ag science programs – 46 percent, or $512,900 – and a smaller increase of 5 percent to all other programs, at $243,500. (Note: The percentage figure, 46 percent, has been corrected from an earlier posting, and it is the accurate one.) Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, pushed for the more uniform increase.
“It is important that we have a degree of fairness,” Mortimer said, noting that overall secondary professional-technical ed programs have seen a 4.1 percent funding decrease over the past 10 years. Ag science programs have risen from 8,963 students in 2004 to 11,951 this year, but overall programs have swelled from 77,997 in 2004 to 84,447 this year. He said that’s why he and a group of JFAC members called for a 15 percent across-the-board increase in secondary PTE program funding. Mortimer added that he’s backing an interim study committee and an Office of Performance Evaluations study to examine the state’s professional-technical education funding and recommend improvements. “This particular secondary schools program has actually had a decrease, and I felt it was important to give them as much as we felt like we could,” he said.
Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, noted that under Mortimer’s proposed budget, ag ed programs would get just a $166,500 increase, vs. his proposed $512,900 increase. In the 9-9 tied vote, the committee’s four Democrats joined GOP Reps. Bell, Bolz, Gibbs, Stevenson and Youngblood to oppose Mortimer’s motion. Gibbs’ then passed on a 16-2 vote, with just Mortimer and Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls, objecting.