State Schools Superintendent Anne Fox said on Monday that she is considering urging state lawmakers to cut $30 million from the $712 million proposed in state education aid for the 1995-1996 school year.
Fox, sworn in only hours earlier as the successor to retired state Schools Superintendent Jerry Evans, had said throughout the closing weeks of her successful campaign that the amount was too high.
The 14.7 percent increase over this year’s aid allotment of $620.5 million was recommended by a coalition of school interests that included Evans and has been endorsed by the state Board of Education.
Speaking with reporters, Fox specifically cited the proposal’s inclusion of a 6 percent salary increase for school district employees in discussing potential areas for reduction. But she said she wanted to talk with others involved in the state public school system about the ramifications of the cut before formally recommending it to lawmakers.
She said, however, “We’re looking at about a $30 million cut.” Fox also said that Republican Gov. Phil Batt had decided to include the $712 million figure for state aid to schools when he submits his budget blueprint to lawmakers next week.
“I know he has submitted it as is,” Fox said.
But Batt, who promised a leaner, more efficient government and flatly labeled the state school aid request as excessive during the campaign, said that was not true.
“Mrs. Fox is incorrect,” Batt said Monday afternoon. “I have never discussed that figure with her.”
In addition to the salary increase, the state board-endorsed aid package includes cash to hire more teachers to accommodate another 4,000 to 5,000 increase in students statewide, another $10.4 million for classroom technology, $3.4 million to comply with a court agreement for services to students with limited proficiency in English and $7 million for expansion of school reform efforts.
Fox said she will recommend repeal of the special committee that administers the school reform effort and wants to turn back the $450,000 federal grant under the so-called Goals 2000 program to foster school reform efforts.
Although Evans said guidelines for use of the money are broad and flexible, Fox said the public does not want the Goals 2000 program in Idaho.
The new superintendent also announced the creation of an ombudsman program to be handled by former University of Idaho education professor Jack Kaufman. Kaufman served on the Moscow School Board for five years. As ombudsman, Kaufman will be available by telephone or electronic mail to respond to citizen complaints, comments or suggestions about Idaho’s public schools.
“The primary purpose of the ombudsman is to increase the trust and confidence of the people in the Department of Education,” Kaufman said.
Fox also said she was hiring Bill Stanley, owner of a construction company specializing in school buildings, for at least a year to develop as many as four generic school building blueprints that will be available to districts free. Those pre-packaged prints could cut as much as 7 percent from the cost of new construction.
But she said she did not know how much Stanley would be paid or what the overall cost of developing the generic designs would be.
Terry Haws, who served as principal of the Alternative High School in Nampa for three years, will serve as chief deputy state superintendent. He is an adjunct professor at Gonzaga University and served as Fox’s campaign manager.
Retired Boise State University Financial Vice President Asa Ruyle will be Fox’s administrative assistant and Ron Pollock, who has twice failed to win the GOP nomination for state controller, will be the department’s director of finance.