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.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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