Last-ditch funding formula bill is on hold

A last-ditch attempt to address Idaho’s school funding formula might be done before it even begins.

The Senate State Affairs Committee didn’t take up the bill Friday — a preliminary but necessary first step to pass a bill in the waning days of the session.

Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls

Senate Education Chairman Dean Mortimer had hoped to introduce the bill as early as Friday.

The bill is not a full-blown funding formula rewrite — which is almost certainly dead for the 2019 session. Mortimer’s bill instead defines student groups, such as at-risk students, special education students and economically disadvantaged students. Those definitions matter, if the state moves to an enrollment-based formula. School districts and charter schools would receive increased state funding to teach students who fall into these groups.

The Mortimer bill doesn’t just contain definitions. One clause would require the House and Senate education committees to review the funding formula at least once every five years, starting in 2024.

Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise

In order for Senate Education to consider this bill, State Affairs needs to print it first. And since the bill wasn’t taken to State Affairs Friday, it’s probably on hold, said Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise.

Ward-Engelking was one of several senators who met with Mortimer for a briefing on the bill Thursday. She also served with Mortimer on a legislative interim committee that spent three years studying the K-12 funding formula.

Ward-Engelking discussed the funding formula bill Friday during a taping of Idaho Public Television’s “Idaho Reports.”

Tune in: “Idaho Reports” airs at 8 p.m. Friday, and will be available online after it airs. I appear on this week’s pundits segment.

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