Balukoff: JFAC school budget falls short

A proposed 5.1 percent budget increase for public schools doesn’t go far enough, Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff said Monday.

Balukoff announcement
A.J. Balukoff

“I applaud the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee for producing a budget that goes 2 percent beyond the governor’s proposed budget — but it falls millions short,” Balukoff, a businessman and Boise School Board member, said in a fundraising email.

In comparison to the 5.1 percent proposal, Gov. Butch Otter proposed a 2.9 percent increase for K-12. The two budgets vary largely on salary issues. The JFAC budget — which has received widespread praise from district officials and education groups — proposes a 1 percent teacher pay raise, costing $13.9 million, and $15.8 million for teacher leadership “premiums.”

Without elaborating, Balukoff also criticized Otter for turning his back on recommendations from his own task force.

“We have a set of recommendations issued by Gov. Otter’s bipartisan task force for better education—and yet, only one recommendation is on the table for implementation.”

Otter’s budget — and JFAC’s budget — both fund one big-ticket recommendation from the task force. Both budgets would restore $35 million in “operational funding” to district budgets. The districts lost $82.5 million in operational funding during the recession — money that can be used for transportation, utilities, health care costs or other needs.

The leadership premiums in JFAC’s budget represent a small down payment on the task force’s most costly recommendation, a $253 million career ladder to boost pay for starting teachers and veteran teachers.

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