September 7, 2012 in City

Luna unveils schools budget plan for 2013

Jessie L. Bonner Associated Press
 
By the numbers

$64.5 million: Increase in state spending on schools under Luna’s proposed budget

$14.8 million: In teacher base pay would not be withdrawn to pay for Luna’s reforms

$8.4 million: Increase in funding for laptops

BOISE – Idaho public schools chief Tom Luna detailed Thursday a proposed budget for next year that increases teacher base pay by $14.8 million, restoring the last of funding that was being shifted from salaries to help pay for his education overhaul.

Overall, Luna’s budget funds the reform package while boosting state spending on Idaho schools by $64.5 million next year, with most of that money going toward compensation, he said during a meeting with reporters in his downtown Boise office.

Along with more money for base salaries – which remain below levels established in fiscal year 2009 – teacher paychecks would also get a boost from a $22.6 million increase in funding for merit bonuses that were approved under Luna’s reforms in 2011, he said.

With the increase, Luna budgeted $61 million for pay-for-performance next year, when the program will be expanded to allow other school professionals to compete.

Also, teachers will be rewarded not only for raising student achievement, but also for taking on hard-to-fill positions or leadership roles.

Luna’s budget includes an $8.4 million increase in funding for laptops that will start going to high school students next year. The state is already spending $2.5 million to give teachers the devices this year under the reforms, which go before voters in November.

Critics succeeded last summer in getting repeal measures on the ballot, decrying the sweeping changes that limited teacher collective bargaining and introduced merit pay while phasing in laptops and making online courses a graduation requirement.

The reforms initially called for shifting money from salaries to help fund the changes. While lawmakers eliminated further deductions in the 2012 session, an initial withdrawal of more than $14 million remained. Luna’s proposed budget, based on feedback from various education groups, would eliminate that deduction next year, he said.

“That was a common request,” Luna said.

The state Department of Education and other state agencies typically submit budget proposals in September for the next fiscal year, which doesn’t start until July 1. Gov. Butch Otter reviews those proposals before making spending recommendations in his State of the State speech in January.

Luna’s budget recommendation includes a 5 percent increase for public schools next year, following a 4.6 percent increase in state general funding this fiscal year.

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