Both houses are back in session; the House has gone to its amending order and amended SB 1395, the bill granting raises to top state elected officials, to lower the amounts from 2.5 percent a year to 1.5 percent a year. At the urging of House Speaker Scott Bedke, the amendment was approved. Meanwhile, the Senate passed the final piece of the public school budget, the portion that includes the high school WiFi networks funding. Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron noted under the budget bill, HB 643, schools that already are in the statewide contract that state schools Superintendent Tom Luna signed with Education Networks of America last July can continue, but those who want to can opt out and get the same amount the state’s paying ENA - $21 per student – for their own high school WiFi networks. Also, those schools that never joined the contract would get the per-student funding for their networks. If costs go above the original $2.25 million, the difference would be made up from the Public Education Stabilization Fund.
Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, praised JFAC for the way it crafted the budget, and Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, thanked Goedde for “his work and collaboration on putting this public school budget together.” Cameron said, “This is the best public schools budget that we’ve had on this floor since 2008. It’s the highest percentage of increase in public schools budget that we’ve had on this floor since 2007. All of us admit we’ve got a long ways to go, we’ve got a lot of work to do in discretionary funds, career ladder, teacher pay ... but this is a good budget." Cameron also thanked Luna for his work with lawmakers on this, his final school budget as state superintendent. The bill then passed on a 29-5 vote. Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, said he was voting no because the measure includes funds to train teachers to implement the new Idaho core standards.