Day 23: The long-awaited budget hearing

State superintendent Debbie Critchfield had the starring role in the three-hour Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) meeting Wednesday morning.

She spent over two hours on her feet, explaining the complex K-12 and State Department of Education budgets (which soak up roughly half of the state’s general fund each year) to JFAC members. This year’s budget could put a record $2.5 billion into public schools.

The education budgets — and the superintendent — typically attract a lot of scrutiny during this process. And on just her 23rd day in office, Critchfield was feeling the pressure.

“I feel like I just gave birth to something,” Critchfield laughed, looking visibly relieved after wrapping up her final presentation Wednesday.

Wednesday’s budgets were not Critchfield’s own drafts. They were first submitted to Gov. Brad Little’s office Sept. 1 by former state superintendent Sherri Ybarra. Critchfield was elected in November and took office in January, leaving little time to overhaul the requests.

But she snuck in a few edits to emphasize her priorities — boosting discretionary funds to enhance local control, zeroing in on literacy, offsetting inflationary transportation costs for districts and more. She’s focused on a vision for Idaho that “reforms, adapts, and listens,” she told the committee.

For full coverage of today’s JFAC meeting and Critchfield’s budget presentations, check out today’s Statehouse roundup.

And JFAC wasn’t the only item on Critchfield’s agenda Wednesday.

She held her weekly meeting with Rep. Julie Yamamoto, R-Caldwell, who chairs the House Education Committee, and recorded a podcast with the Idaho Reports team.

Wednesday evening, she’ll attend a legislative reception hosted by the College of Southern Idaho.

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected].

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