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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

The public school budget…

The public school budget that's now being debated in the Senate is $1.224 billion in state general funds and $1.56 billion total, a $47 million cut from this year's level, which saw a historic $128.5 million cut from the previous year. That's a 3 percent cut. The budget calls for a 1.87 percent pay cut for teachers, administrators and classified staff in the base salaries funded by the state. Part of that comes from a $14.8 million reduction in salary funds to cover technology investments required under SB 1184, the school reform bill, and the rest from an additional $13.3 million cut designed to help balance the budget and meet the bottom line. Discretionary funding per classroom would drop by 10 percent from this year's level, which was 14.4 percent below last year's; overall, the budget is $12 million below the governor's recommendation.

Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, said Idaho's not as bad off as Washington. "They're looking at cutting $700 million from education, both higher ed and K-12," he said. Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, said the cuts shouldn't have been made; the state could have raised the sales tax or the cigarette tax and avoided them, she said. "In my gut, in my soul, this budget is really painful," she said. "It's sobering ... we in the nation rank as one of the ones that spends the least per pupil on education funding for our public schools, so when we are forced to cut to this level, it can be very, very difficult for districts." Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said, "I have to tell you that I am thrilled that we got it to this level, because when this session started the reduction for public schools was pretty breathtaking, it was pretty onerous."

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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