State Board members rip Luna’s K-12 budget

State Board of Education member Bill Goesling ripped into Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s budget proposal on Thursday, calling the 5.9 percent spending increase “unacceptable.”


Bill Goesling

Goesling said an increase in public school funding would come at the expense of Idaho’s colleges and universities.

“I find this to be just an unacceptable increase in numbers,” Goesling said during the board’s meeting in Lewiston. “I think at some point the board is going to have stand up and say, ‘This is not going to work for higher education.’”

Luna’s K-12 budget proposal does not factor in higher education spending, and it does not call for any cuts in any other budgets.

Goesling suggested board members — who are appointed by Gov. Butch Otter — make a separate recommendation to the governor.

Although he was perhaps the most vocal critic of Luna’s proposed budget, Goesling was not alone.

“The fact is these numbers are staggering when you look at where we are going and what we are doing and who is going to be robbed in this whole spectrum of moneys,” said board member Milford Terrell. Terrell said he understands public schools and universities are both seeking a restoration of Great Recession-era budget cuts.

The debate flared up as Luna Deputy Chief of Staff Jason Hancock presented an overview of the budget proposal.

The proposal calls for a $77 million increase in public school funding. Luna built his budget around several recommendations from Otter’s Task Force For Improving Education, including a five-year proposal to reverse cuts in K-12 operational funding, and a transformation of Idaho’s teacher pay model.

Those recommendations were backed unanimously by the 31-member task force — which included four members of the State Board, but not Goesling or Terrell.

Although the funding debate was passionate, it may have been somewhat of an academic exercise. The State Board does not appropriate funds – that task falls to lawmakers and Otter.

Richard Westerberg

Richard Westerberg

State board member Richard Westerberg – the task force’s chairman – appeared to sense the tension in the room Thursday. On at least two occasions, he jokingly asked if members could take an early break for lunch and set the discussion aside until later.

Westerberg stood behind the task force’s work while acknowledging the “sticker shock” reaction to the budget.

“I don’t think anyone on the board or in the room would argue that we have adequately funded K-12 education,” Westerberg said.

Even before Thursday, the budget proposal has drawn mixed reviews.

  • Adam Collins

    Well done Bill. I agree that the funding proposal offered by Tom Luna is unacceptable, as it is far too low and should be significantly higher. Sadly, it appears that Bill Goesling is perfectly happy to bury his head in the sand provided to him by his Republican benefactors and decry the poor funding situation in Idaho but do absolutly nothing about it. Once again, political hypocrisy is evident again in the State Board of Education.

  • Steve Smylie

    Well, you get what you pay for.

    The irony is that both are correct. Higher Ed. and K-12 both can justify the funding they request. By starting the repeal of the personal property tax and ignoring how many sales transactions now take place in the digital age, Idaho guarantees that education will always be shortchanged. As our prisons keep expanding, since no one wants to discuss sentencing and rehabilitation, and as our tax receipts reflect the fact that so many of our citizens are either unemployed or working for low wages, it will only get worse.

    The legislature could solve the problem with one simple move, join other states in the Streamline Sales Tax project, so that online sales are treated like every other sale in the state. Of course, equity and fairness might be too much to ask.

  • http://EnoughIsEnoughIdaho Russell Joki

    When higher education is held accountable–with the same scrutiny of k-12, with published performance data, for starts–then and only then should the State Board express interest in additional state support for higher education.

    Every national trend–from President Obama to the parents who pay the tuition fees to send a child to college–indicates a deep and growing distrust for higher education quality and disdain for the increased costs of and usefulness of a university degree.

    It is deserved. While Idaho university presidents can still “sell” the good old “Idaho higher education bargain”, they cannot, with a straight face, give us quality assurances.

    Why not? The State Board of Education has yet to ask the hard accountability questions to the “parade of presidents and provosts” who come asking for more money while bemoaning “the failure of k-12 education”.

    Here’s a very short list of hard questions the State Board should ask and then require the universities to publish on their websites and disclose to every student who enrolls:

    1) What is your university’s graduate employment rate for the last five years?
    2) Where did your university graduates finding employment in the last five years?
    3) What, exactly, has your university’s research contributed to solving Idaho’s problems?
    4) How often and what were the results of shared research with other state universities?
    5) Explain why your university’s administration salaries and benefits outpace those of your faculty?

    By the way–these are “soft ball” questions compared to those asked each and every day of any k-12 superintendent.