Boise district wants more money, more time on licensure plan

Boise school leaders have two key messages for the 2015 Legislature.

  1. Give districts more “operational funding” for day-to-day needs.
  2. And take another year or so to write a new tiered teacher licensure plan.

District administrators are meeting with Boise lawmakers this week to go over their legislative wish list for the session that will open Jan. 12.

Operational funding will certainly be on legislators’ docket at some point in the session. Lawmakers will have to decide whether to restore more of the operational dollars that were cut from district budgets during the recession. The 2014 Legislature added $35 million in operational funding, but it will take another $78 million to make up the balance.

In 2013-14, before the Legislature boosted the budget, the Boise district received $24.7 million in operational funding. That money is put into a host of budget line items — such as health insurance, retirement benefits and utilities — that the state doesn’t cover, or covers only partially. These various line items cost the district $43.6 million in 2013-14, much less than it received in operational funding.

Next year could be tight, district budget and finance administrator Nancy Landon told lawmakers.

Outgoing state superintendent Tom Luna has requested only a $10 million increase in operational funding; it’s unclear what Superintendent-elect Sherri Ybarra will request when she takes office in January. But a $10 million increase would equate to about $500,000 for Boise schools, and increases in worker’s compensation and insurance premiums could very easy gobble up that amount, Landon said.

Lawmakers are likely to have to make a decision on tiered licensure — part of a controversial plan that would tie teacher salary increases to evaluations and student growth, and not just experience and education. It’s tied to a career ladder plan that would boost pay for new teachers and experienced teachers alike.

The plan is costly; when salaries and benefits are combined, it could cost $300 million to fully fund the career ladder, district human resources director Blas Telleria said. While it may make sense to give starting teachers a big boost from the current $31,750 minimum salary, district officials want legislators to take at least a year before moving on a tiered licensure plan. “There’s too much at stake, it’s too complex,” Telleria said.

At this point, the tiered licensure seems likely to come before the Legislature as an administrative rule, not a bill. That means the controversial plan need only pass the House or Senate education committee to go into effect.

Three Boise lawmakers attended Monday’s meeting with district leaders: Democratic Sen. Elliot Werk and Reps. Thomas Dayley, a Republican, and Phylis King, a Democrat. Several other lawmakers are expected to attend a similar luncheon briefing Tuesday.