The numbers in the series of motions for the public school budget next year proposed by 14 members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee add up to a $66.2 million increase (5.1%) in general funds for public schools next year, compared to Gov. Butch Otter’s proposed $37.5 million increase (2.9%). State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna had originally requested an increase of more than $70 million (5.4%).
Otter called for restoring $35 million in operational funds that were cut from the school budget through the economic downturn; the motions include those funds. They also include $15.8 million for leadership bonuses for teachers, which Otter hadn’t included in his budget; and a 1 percent increase in base pay for teachers and administrators, whereas Otter had recommended zero.
Still to come this morning are debates over how to approach future funding for high school wireless networks and for Schoolnet, an instructional management software system that’s drawn lots of complaints from school districts, some of which have opted to buy different systems.
JFAC Co-Chair Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said if the joint committee can’t reach agreement on the intent language regarding those items today, it could hold that for later. He said he hoped that debate over those items won’t obscure the big picture about the budget lawmakers are setting today: “It’s as good a public schools budget as we’ve seen in a long time,” he said. The total in state general funds next year would be $1,374,598,400; the alternative motion from Reps. Shirley Ringo and Phylis King is for $1,376,724,900. The governor’s recommendation was $1,345,819,300.