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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

School budgets draw debate

The first public school budget bill, HB 323, dealing with administrators, passed the House on a 44-24 vote. The second, HB 324, for the division of teachers, includes a cut in the base salary for teachers of 2.63 percent and reducing the state's minimum teacher salary from the current $31,750 to $30,915. It's drawing debate. Rep. Branden Durst, D-Boise, declared, "We don't have to be doing this right now. We're choosing to do it, but we don't have to." He called for the state to instead spend reserve funds to avoid cuts in schools. "We have millions and millions and millions of dollars sitting in a bank account waiting to be spent," Durst said. "This budget is a real tragedy for the state of Idaho, it's a tragedy for our kids and it's a tragedy for our parents. ... People will lose their jobs because we passed this budget."

Rep. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, debating in favor of the bill, said people focus on spending. "That has very little to do with the quality of education," he told the House. "We can improve education. Money is not the key to this improvement, however. ... To improve education we need to look beyond the money." House Education Chairman Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, said Utah has one of the nation's lowest per-pupil spending on schools, but some of the highest test scores. "I think this is a budget we have to accept in the tough times we have - I think we've done our best for education," Nonini told the House. "Per-pupil spending does not equate to smarter children."

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, said, "This is a horrible, horrible year - it's a horrible year for everyone. People are making cuts everywhere." He said he thought it "wise for us to maybe save some of our rainy day funds this year" to avoid further school cuts or a tax increase next year. Rep. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, said, "We have almost $400 million of rainy-day funds. We are making assumptions that the economy is going to worsen."

Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.