The two chairmen of the Legislature’s education committees went before state budget writers Thursday to reaffirm their support for task force recommendations.
House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, and Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, made the funding push as the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee prepares to transition into budget-setting mode.
“On lots of levels we are on the same page,” DeMordaunt testified. “We see the path ahead of us. We were both involved in the governor’s task force and, as a result, we understand the impacts those recommendations are going to have.”
The chairmen threw their support behind numerous recommendations – including spending $15.8 million for new teacher leadership financial awards and restoring $35 million in cuts to districts’ operations funding budgets.
“While the task force did not prioritize its recommendations, certain stakeholders that were involved feel (restoring operations cuts) is their highest priority,” Goedde said.
The education chairman also voiced support for other task force recommendations, including:
- Offering and paying for advanced opportunities for high school students to take dual credit courses.
- Developing strategic planning documents designed to facilitate dialogue between school boards and superintendents.
- Developing and funding an instructional improvement system, whether it is the troubled Schoolnet system or another program.
- Paying for professional development for educators – including for teachers who work with gifted and talented programs.
- Supporting calls for $14.45 million in supplemental funding for the Idaho Education Network school broadband system – as well as funding to pay for the program next year.
- Providing money for another round of technology pilot programs.
- Spending $50,000 to support two committees being created by the Idaho State Board of Education to further develop and implement remaining task force recommendations.
Although they backed the Idaho Education Network, Goedde urged lawmakers to hold off on the task force recommendation to extend broadband access to middle and elementary schools “until we take care of the existing problems we have got.”
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Budget committee members took no official action on the proposals Thursday, but indicated testimony from DeMordaunt and Goedde was “precise” and helpful.
The public school budget is scheduled to be set March 3 even though legislative leadership had pushed for the education budget to be the first one set next week.
House Speaker Scott Bedke told Idaho Education News that he wanted to avoid the same situation as last year – when the public school budget was debated near the end of the legislative session. A year ago, tensions between the budget and education committees flared up and the Senate killed the schools budget – forcing the legislative session to be extended by about a week while a nearly identical budget was developed and voted on again.
“When you’re a priority budget, you get to go first,” Bedke said.
However, Bedke said leaders of the education committee “told me for logistical reasons” they were not ready for the budget to be considered first.
Bedke said he agreed to allow the education committees more time to scrutinize the task force recommendations and circulate legislation that may have budget implications.