The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee is preparing this morning to set the single largest slice of Idaho's state budget - the budget for public schools. Much work and negotiation has been going on behind the scenes, on everything from how to handle a high school WiFi contract to teacher pay. A group of 14 JFAC members - that's 14 of the 20 members - has come together to craft a series of motions to set the budget; another, dissenting group of two members, Democratic Reps. Shirley Ringo and Phylis King, have crafted their own version. But the only difference between the two is on pay. Ringo and King want a 1.5 percent increase in base pay for teachers and administrators, while the others want 1 percent; both proposals also include $15.8 million for one-time leadership bonuses for teachers, as laid out in a bill now moving through the Legislature. The Ringo/King proposal also calls for a 1.5 percent increase in the minimum teacher salary, from the current $31,000 a year to $31,465. The larger group is calling for a bigger boost to the minimum salary, to $31,750 - the same level it was set at in 2009.
The public school budget is divided into a series of divisions; on the first division, dealing with administrators, the Ringo-King motion was defeated 2-17, and then the larger group's motion passed, 17-2. The sponsors of the successful motion are Sens. Cameron, Keough, Mortimer, Thayn, Schmidt, and Lacey, and Reps. Bell, Bolz, Thompson, Eskridge, Gibbs, Miller, Stevenson and Youngblood.
Overall, the larger groups' motions, if all pass, would result in a 5.1 percent increase in public school funding next year, and 4.9 percent in total funds. The Ringo/King motions would result in a 5.2 percent general fund boost and 5 percent in total funds. Gov. Butch Otter recommended a 2.9 percent increase in state general funds, 2.8 percent overall.