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Eye On Boise

Testimony focuses on school funding

Penni Cyr testifies to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee at a public hearing on Friday morning (Betsy Russell)
Penni Cyr testifies to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee at a public hearing on Friday morning (Betsy Russell)

Among those testifying at the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee’s public hearing this morning on  state budget issues:

Penni Cyr, president of the Idaho Association, said, “Idaho must take significant action in order to be able to attract and retain high-quality teachers.” She said the state needs to “pay our teachers a professional wage that’s competitive with surrounding states and industries,” and said, “Idaho education is dealing with a significant drain of our most important resource – our dedicated, experienced, professional teachers are leaving for other states or leaving the profession entirely.”

Phil Homer of the Idaho Association of School Administrators told the budget writers his group’s priorities are restoring operational funding for schools, and providing more support for recruiting and retaining teachers and providing professional development and technology “for those folks, in order to function in the classroom.” He urged the panel to get teacher salaries up to at least $40,000 as quickly as possible.

Kendra Wisenbaker, president of the Meridian Education Association, said, “Teachers always want what is best for their students. I bet you already know what I am going to say schools need more of: Money. … Giving money to schools will help them be more successful, and here are a few reasons why.” She told of seriously overcrowded schools in her districts, where high school students eat lunch on the floor in an overcrowded cafeteria, and sixth-graders have to fight crowds to use the bathrooms during breaks and still get to class on time. “Idaho students need the best we can give the, and district reliance on bonds and levies to make up for lack of legislative funding does not” accomplish that, she said. “Each year I see some of the district’s most qualified teachers leaving.”

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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