JFAC begins reviewing education budgets

School funding will come into focus this week during a series of legislative budget hearings known as education week.

Throughout the week, budget writers from the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will consider funding requests from new Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, the State Board of Education, universities and community colleges.

Emma Atchley
Emma Atchley

Ybarra, who will seek a 6.4 percent increase in K-12 funding, will present her budget request Thursday. Earlier this month, Gov. Butch Otter called for a 7.4 percent increase in K-12 funding for next year.

State Board of Education President Emma Atchley kicked off education week hearings Monday by backing support for the 20 recommendations issued in 2013 by Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education.

When it comes for paying for and implementing the recommendations, Atchley backed seven aspects of Otter’s proposed 2015-16 budget.

The items Atchley endorsed included:

  • Devoting $32 million to implement a career ladder form of teacher pay that would replace the state’s existing salary grid and be phased in over approximately five years.
  • Restoring $20 million more of the funding cuts from the discretionary spending pool that benefits school districts. That money is also frequently referred to as operations funding.
  • Spending $17.65 million for teachers’ professional development training. Atchley said the money would pay for approximately two additional professional development training days in 2015-16.
  • $11 million for classroom technology and training.
  • $2.5 million for college and career counseling.
  • $752,000 for leadership training for school board members and administrators.
  • $400,000 to begin launching a small program to pilot a mastery-bases system of education. Under a mastery system, students would advance through school based on mastery of a subject or grade level, not simply by spending a year in a class and earning a passing grade.

Atchley did not oppose any of Otter’s budget proposals. She described the career ladder as a tool for recruiting teachers and financially rewarding those who demonstrate excellence.

“Investing in teachers is critical for their success and for our student’ success,” Atchley told JFAC members.

The career ladder pay program is designed to align with a controversial proposal for a tiered licensure system of educator certification the State Board of Education advanced last year.

JFAC education week schedule

  • Monday: State Board of Education, University of Idaho, agriculture research and extension service.
  • Tuesday: North Idaho College, College of Southern Idaho, College of Western Idaho.
  • Wednesday: Lewis-Clark State College, Idaho State University, Boise State University.
  • Thursday: K-12 public schools, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra.
  • Friday: State Board of Education, Higher Education Research Council, professional-technical education.

Check back with Idaho Education News on Thursday for full coverage of Ybarra’s budget presentation and reaction. 


Clark Corbin

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