Lawmaker: K-12 budget a ‘dismal failure’

The Legislature hasn’t begun its floor debate on the K-12 budget proposal — that’s one big piece of the work left to do, as lawmakers hope to wrap up the 2014 session this week.

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Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise

But state Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, weighed in Monday.

“The K-12 general fund appropriation is a dismal failure,” Gannon said in a news release. “The Legislature has spent way too much time dealing with guns, ‘Ag Gag’ and other issues. Education was supposed to be the priority this session, but it isn’t.”

At $1.37 billion, the K-12 budget would represent a 5.1 percent increase from 2013-14 — the largest increase since 2007. But the 2014-15 budget would still lag $43 million below the original K-12 budget from 2008-09, and Gannon says the gap is even wider than that. He says the budget fails to keep up with rising enrollment, health care cost increases, inflation and the cost of training to meet the new Idaho Core Standards. Accounting for these variables, Gannon estimates that the 2014-15 budget is nearly $169 million behind 2008-09 — or nearly four times as much as the actual difference in dollars.

Gannon’s news release notes that 41 of 48 school tax proposals passed last week — a $208.9 million commitment to levies and building bond issues. “Yet our Legislature taxes extra money and puts it into special funds or tax cuts for those who don’t need them.”

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