New state schools Superintendent Tom Luna unveiled a $1.38 billion budget request for public schools today that calls for funding 3 percent in raises for teachers next year and making new state investments into classroom supplies and textbooks. “This budget supports our teachers in a new and bold way,” Luna said, noting that he’d raise the minimum teacher salary to $31,000 from the current $30,000.
Sherri Wood, president of the Idaho Education Association, said, “We know that inflation is 3.8 percent, and so for educators to realize any actual money, that’s not going to happen. So we’re hoping that the Legislature will work to increase the 3 percent to something better.” Lawmakers have been talking about 5 percent raises for other state employees next year, though no decision has been made yet. Gov. Butch Otter called for 5 percent in merit raises, but making state workers cover increases in their benefit costs.
For schools, Luna’s budget reflects an overall 7 percent increase over this year’s general fund budget for education, but just a 1 percent increase in discretionary funding to school districts. “We need to make sure that the classroom environment is the focus of the new spending,” Luna said. The plan includes a $24 million “classroom enhancement package” to direct state funding specifically to textbook purchases, classroom supplies, remediation for kids who are falling behind and college classes for high-performing high school juniors and seniors. Luna will pitch the plan to legislative budget writers next week; read the full story here in today's Spokesman-Review.