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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Teachers Denied Leave For Hearing

Boise school teachers won’t be able to get paid time off to attend a state hearing Friday on schools spending using a special leave despite a request from the Boise Education Association (BEA). The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC), which writes the state budget, will listen to public testimony from individuals on the schools budget during its Friday meeting.  Speakers are limited to three minutes of testimony.  The hearing will likely revolve around an education reform plan backed by state schools superintendent Tom Luna that has come under fire from the Idaho Education Association (IEA). The BEA sent an e-mail to some of its members on Jan. 13 urging them to attend the meeting/Brad Iverson-Long, Idaho Reporter. More here.

Question: Should Boise teachers be able to use special leave to attend the JFAC meeting that will discuss Superintendent Tom Luna's proposed public education reform?

One state budget cut reversed just in time, thanks to Albertson Foundation grant

One state budget cut has just been reversed, and just in time: The Idaho Digitial Learning Academy has received a $100,000 grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation that’s allowing it to immediately lift unprecedented new enrollment caps on advanced courses offered online to Idaho high school students for the coming school year. The grant is part of the Albertson Foundation’s “Go On” campaign, which is aimed at raising Idaho’s dismally low rate of students going on to further education after high school; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

“This is a very trying time for educators in Idaho,” said Donna Hutchison, CEO at the IDLA. “IDLA strives to be part of the solution for districts struggling with budget cuts.” The academy, created by the Legislature in 2002, offers online courses at minimal cost to students around the state, including those whose local districts simply don’t offer the courses. The grant will immediately lift enrollment caps placed on Advanced Placement and dual credit classes ranging from calculus to psychology for the coming school year; the enrollment deadline for the 47 class offerings is Sept. 3. The grant also will provide some resources for students preparing for college entrance exams.

“Increasing access to educational opportunities such as AP and dual credit classes is essential for Idaho’s students,” said Albertson Foundation Executive Director Jamie MacMillan. “Idaho students rank in the bottom 10 states for students who go on and complete post-secondary training and education. Without access to advanced opportunities such as those IDLA provides, Idaho’s students are far less likely to complete the education necessary to help them - and the state - be as successful as possible.”

Idaho ranks low in school spending

Idaho long has ranked low compared to other states in per-pupil education spending. The latest U.S. Census report shines additional light on that: Idaho ranks 50th (out of 51 states plus the District of Columbia) in per-pupil spending (Utah is last), and when state spending on schools is compared to personal income in the state, Idaho still ranks low at 41st (while Utah rises to 25th). The census report, which gathered data from all public elementary and secondary school systems in the nation, is based on 2008 data, so it’s from long before this year’s legislative decision to slash $128 million from Idaho’s school budget. Here’s a link to the full report, and here’s one to just the rankings, both in text and chart form.