Previewing the big K-12 budget hearing …

Week Nine of the 2013 Legislature begins with a big hearing: On Monday morning, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will tackle the public schools budget.

With that comes, perhaps, some answers to some key questions:

  • What will budget writers do with the $34 million that Gov. Butch Otter and state schools superintendent Tom Luna earmarked for an education reform task force? The task force won’t have recommendations for the 2013 Legislature — and, as a result, they won’t have use for the $34 million in 2013-14. Does this money stay in K-12, as Luna and members of the Legislature’s education committees want? And if so, where does it go? Technology, professional development and pilot merit pay projects could be among the options.
  • Which bottom line prevails? Luna wants a 3 percent increase for K-12; Otter requested a 2 percent increase. Where does JFAC come down on this $13 million difference?
  • What about the line items? In settling the differences between the Luna and Otter budget proposals, JFAC will have to decide on a host of line items — requested by Luna, but not by Otter. This laundry list includes, among others, $10.4 million for school technology programs; $4.85 million to hire math and science teachers; and $3.755 million for professional development to support Common Core implementation.
  • What happens to Idaho Digital Learning Academy? Enrollment is growing at the state-sponsored online school, and both Otter and Luna want to give IDLA a budget boost. Luna has requested $6.45 million, a $1.4 million increase; Otter has requested $9.6 million.
  • What about starting teacher pay? Luna wants an increase from $30,500 to $31,000. Otter makes no such recommendation.
  • Does JFAC earmark any money for charter school facilities? A bill providing $1.4 million for charter facilities hasn’t passed the Legislature; it’s headed for the House floor. Do budget-writers set aside money for this proposal?
  • And what about sequestration? On Friday, JFAC heard a lot of numbers, and a lot of speculation, about how the mandatory federal budget cuts could affect state agencies. Schools could endure the deepest hits, in areas such as Title I and special education, although the cuts won’t be felt until the 2013-14 budget year. Does JFAC try to backfill any of these potential losses?

Idaho Education News will have the budget hearing blanketed Monday morning. Follow our live Twitter updates @idahoednews, then come here for the latest stories and check my blog for updates.

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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