ISBA members call for restoring budget holdbacks, reclaiming teacher pay levels

Saying schools are underfunded amid a historic pandemic, Idaho School Boards Association members called for restoring state budget holdbacks during the group’s virtual convention Thursday.

On a related note, ISBA members also called for educators to reclaim their position on the career ladder salary allocation system. In response to state holdbacks that froze teacher pay at last year’s levels, ISBA members passed a resolution calling for teachers to move two rungs up the ladder next year to offset this year’s freeze.

In all, ISBA members considered 15 policy proposals during Thursday’s business session of the convention.

A few other resolutions are likely to be central to Statehouse debates during the 2021 legislative session. ISBA members again passed a resolution opposing diverting public funding to private or religious schools through vouchers, scholarships or similar means.

The Idaho Constitution already prohibits this through the so-called Blaine Amendment.

But the issue is expected to resurface after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Espinoza Vs. Montana Department of Revenue that a Montana state scholarship program must be available to students attending private schools, including religious schools.

ISBA has more than 900 members and represents all 115 school districts and more than 60 charter schools. Voting was conducted virtually, using a weighted model that reflected student enrollment.

Each of the resolutions that passed is being adopted by ISBA for two years as a policy positions the organization will advocate for.

Many of the resolutions require changes in law to be enacted, so passing a resolution is just the beginning of the debate.

Here’s a closer look at how the resolutions fared (more details about each resolution are available on the ISBA’s website).

  • No. 1 Holding student expulsion hearings in executive session: Passed.
  • No. 2. Staff holding an interim certificate cannot be issued a renewable contract until completing all program requirements: Passed.
  • No. 3 Push for a change in Idaho laws to align with the federal Gun Free Schools Act so a student in possession of a firearm of other dangerous weapon does not automatically face expulsion. Bonneville Superintendent Scott Wolstenhulme said his district pushed for the change after a student brought a knife to school and voluntarily surrendered it after realizing he unintentionally left the knife in a coat he last used during a family camping trip. Even though the student turned the knife in as soon as he realized he made the mistake, the district had to move forward with expulsion. The resolution passed.
  • No. 4 Allowing schools to use state dollars for kindergarten preparedness programs for students younger than age 5: Passed.
  • No. 5 Opposition to diverting to public funds to private or parochial schools through vouchers or scholarships: Passed.
  • No. 6 Reduce the supermajority requirement to pass facilities bonds: Passed.
  • No. 7 Amend social studies content standards to include Western Civilization: Failed.
  • No. 8 Amending paid administrative leave laws for employees who face criminal charges: Pass.
  • No. 9 Flexibility for use it or lose it funding: Pass.
  • No. 10 Full funding for all day kindergarten: Pass.
  • No. 11 Reclamation of placement on the career ladder by advancing two rungs next year: Passed.
  • No. 12 Salary-based apportionment for classified employees: Passed.
  • No. 13 Restoration of education budget holdbacks: Passed.
  • No. 14 Establishing expectations for the Public Charter School Commission and other nonelected officials: Failed. The ISBA executive board and Butte County School Board member Karen Pyron opposed the resolution, which was brought by the Caldwell School District. “I felt this has the ability to divide our unified membership,” Pyron said. Charter school board members have joined the ISBA in recent years, and Pyron and ISBA officials said they didn’t want to pit charter board members against neighborhood school board members.
  • No. 15 Allow public schools to collect impact fees: Pass.

Clark Corbin

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