March 3, 2014 in Idaho

Idaho lawmakers boost school spending

By The Spokesman-Review
Betsy Russell photo

Idaho lawmakers debate and set the public school budget on Monday morning
(Full-size photo)

BOISE – Idaho lawmakers set a budget for public schools for next year that includes a 5.1 percent, $66.2 million increase – nearly twice the increase recommended by Gov. Butch Otter.

The budget plan, which won strong support in the Legislature’s joint budget committee on Monday, would grant teachers a 1 percent base pay increase plus give out $15.8 million in leadership bonuses that school districts could distribute to deserving teachers; Otter had recommended no boost in teacher pay. Idaho also would boost its minimum teacher salary to $31,750 a year, bringing it back up to the 2009 level.

The spending plan also calls for restoring $35 million in operational funds cut from Idaho’s schools over the years of economic downturn. “It’s as good a public schools budget as we’ve seen in a long time,” said Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert.

State schools Superintendent Tom Luna welcomed the budget plan, saying it’s the culmination of years of work and finally gets Idaho back to 2008 funding levels for schools, though not yet back up to 2009’s level.

The budget still needs approval from both houses and the governor’s signature to become law, but budgets rarely change once they’re set by the joint committee.

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