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Eye On Boise

Senate votes 34-1 to reverse recession-era cut in funding for busing to school field trips

The Senate is back on the floor this afternoon, and has voted 34-1 in favor of SB 1123, to reverse a cut made to public schools during the economic downturn that banned the use of state busing funds for school field trips. “There is room in the existing budget,” said Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon. “Most of us will recall the message consistently repeated during the downturn: Education will be the last cut, and the first restored.”

Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, spoke out against the bill. “I don’t oppose education – I value it and it’s important,” he said. “But I think we need to focus more on the cake rather than the icing on the cake.” He said, “Just because it’s in the budget doesn’t mean we have to live up to the budget and spend it. … Let’s leave it there for a while, let’s not dream up ways to spend it on extracurriculars.”

Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, said he was the sponsor of the cut back during the recession. “It was not an easy thing to do; we were in a heck of a crisis,” he said. “This is not just extracurricular activities per se, it is also educational opportunities where they can go learn things. …  I couldn’t be prouder to be listed as a co-sponsor on this legislation. I’m glad that we’re able to strike this language out and start to restore some of this funding.”

Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said he still can remember a field trip he took to an aquarium as a young child. “There are things you can learn on a field trip that make education real to you,” he said. “This allows us to enhance curriculum in our schools for our children, so that it’s not just education for those who love to read, it’s also education for those who need to touch and feel and see something real.”

Senate Education Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, said, “We should’ve have restored this field trip transportation funding two or three years ago. … It is so critical, I think, for the overall learning experience. This is money that is well spent.”

When the roll was called, only Foreman voted against SB 1123. The bill, which now moves to the House side, strikes out wording in current state law that says state funding for busing can go only to reimburse costs “directly associated with transporting students for the purposes of regular school attendance during regular days and hours.”

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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