Members of the House Education Committee unanimously backed a bill to prevent Idaho schools from losing $30.6 million in the wake of the Students Come First Repeal.
Committee head Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, sponsored House Bill 65, which would return money to school districts during the current budget year. The goal, said DeMordaunt, is to avoid a drastic, unintended midyear budget cut.
“As a result of the repeal of Students Come First legislation, there was a significant cut in our education funding,” DeMordaunt said. “My recommendation and the purpose of this is to allow that funding to flow to our school districts based on expectations set prior to November.”
Following Thursday morning’s vote, the bill heads to the House floor with the committee’s recommendation.
Republicans and Democrats alike got behind the bill. Nobody testified for or against the bill during its hearing.
“I think this is a great piece of legislation,” said Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking, a Boise Democrat.
DeMordaunt introduced his proposal last month. The plan, which only affects the 2012-13 budget, returns $38.7 million in pay for performance money. The bill also gives districts nearly $16.2 million for technology and professional development, and makes available $842,400 for dual credit college courses for high school students who complete graduation requirements early.
Finally, the plan gives districts-use-it-or-lose-it flexibility, covering about 9.5 percent of staff funding, and restores one year of education credits on a teacher salary table that had been frozen.
Although the bill returns money to school districts, it does not resurrect the major programs from Students Come First, such as laptop computer acquisition or online course mandates.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna backs the plan, which is co-sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene and Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls.
Before the 2013 session, several school district superintendents, including Charles Shackett from Bonneville Joint School District 93, urged the Legislature to restore the funding.
Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, said he was surprised education stakeholders did not turn out Thursday to offer their support.
“I am excited about this bill, but am a little bit surprised we don’t have some people coming forward and saying ‘thank you,’” Nielsen said. “That really surprised me because we didn’t have to do this.”