In JFAC, the K-12 budget vigil continues

(UPDATED, 3:03 p.m., to reflect career ladder bill on Wednesday’s House Education Committee agenda.)

The budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee met for a little over an hour this morning — and it’s unclear when budget-writers will meet again.

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Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls

Or when JFAC will take action on its final big piece of business: the public schools budget.

JFAC adjourned Tuesday “subject to the call of the chair.” That’s Statehouse-speak for a committee with no meetings scheduled. The committee will reconvene — at some point — to write a K-12 budget. But the committee has put the work on hold, while the policy-writing education committees continue to try to piece together a career ladder bill that would boost teacher pay.

There may be movement on a new version of a career ladder bill. On Tuesday afternoon, the House Education Committee added a career ladder proposal to its Wednesday morning agenda. This appears to be just an introductory hearing on the rewritten bill. House Education meets at 8 a.m. at the Statehouse’s Lincoln Auditorium.

Until the cost of a career ladder bill is clear, and until a career ladder bill clears the House, JFAC is putting its budget-writing on hold.

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Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome

That doesn’t mean the K-12 budget isn’t on JFAC’s mind. As Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported, Tuesday morning’s meeting began with a frustrated Sen. Roy Lacey making a motion that JFAC simply fund Gov. Butch Otter’s request for a 7.4 percent K-12 budget increase. The motion was deemed out of order, and was tabled.

Sen. Dean Mortimer, a JFAC member who doubles as chairman of the Senate Education Committee, preached patience. “I do feel that we’re making significant progress and we’ll see significant progress over the next couple of days,” Mortimer said, according to Russell.

Rep. Maxine Bell, House co-chair of JFAC, was skeptical. “The next couple of days?,” she said, according to Russell’s post. “I guess those of us who’ve watched for the sparks expect a flame.”

Related post, from Monday: Boise Democrats draft a K-12 budget counterproposal.