Legislative leaders approve school funding group’s roster

Legislative leaders meeting at the Statehouse Friday confirmed the lineup of lawmakers charged with potentially revamping Idaho’s public school funding formula.

The origin of the interim committee dates to the early days of the 2016 legislative session, when lawmakers passed a resolution and assembled a school funding working group.

The 10 legislators on the committee — eight Republicans, two Democrats, plus Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra and a member of the State Board of Education — won’t have an easy or quick task.

House Concurrent Resolution 33 calls on the committee to complete a detailed study of the state’s complicated school funding formula and report back recommendations to the Legislature.

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Sen. Chuck Winder

Public school funding is the state’s largest general fund expense each year. A complicated formula involving average daily student attendance drives the expenditure of nearly $1.6 billion annually.

The existing school funding formula hasn’t been updated since 1994. Some government leaders complain it wasn’t designed to accommodate online or dual credit courses, student mobility or the state’s gradual move to a system of mastery-based education.

As expected, the Public School Funding Formula Interim Committee will be headed up by Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, and Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls.

Members of the House and Senate education committees — and, notably, Speaker of the House Scott Bedke — are also represented on the committee.

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Rep. Wendy Horman

Since the group has already met, legislative leaders opted not to shake up its roster or alter the group’s mission. Instead, members of the Legislative Council voted unanimously Friday to approve the list of 10 lawmakers.

“This is probably more accurately called a ratification (of the committee roster),” Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill said. “The committee was set up during the legislative session, and the committee has already met probably two-to-three times as well.

The committee’s full legislative lineup is:

  • Winder.
  • Horman.
  • Bedke.
  • Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls.
  • Sen. Cliff Bayer, R-Meridian.
  • Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett.
  • Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise.
  • House Education Committee Vice Chairwoman Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree.
  • Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay.
  • Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City.

In addition to Ybarra, a State Board member and the 10 lawmakers, the committee’s two co-chairs are allowed to appoint other non-legislative members as well.

The group is expected to report its findings, recommendations and potential draft bills during next year’s legislative session.