Luna offers his budget ideas this morning

The 2013 Legislature must repair the 2013 K-12 budget and agree on the 2014 budget before going home this session, and this makes this morning unique.

Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna will present to lawmakers his ideas for both budgets. Usually, he only has to negotiate one year at a time. But this year, because of the voter repeal of the Students Come First laws, $30.6 million from this school year is in limbo, and educators are waiting for resolution over money that has already been budgeted.

“People are looking for answers,” Luna said. “This is the opportunity to start the conversation. I’m looking forward to being engaged.”

Luna presents his ideas for both budget years, and the budget for his State Department of Education, to the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee at 8 a.m. The meeting is open to the public. (You can follow the story as it develops at this website, or live on our twitter feed @idahoednews).

FY 2013 Budget (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013)

Lawmakers wrote this budget last year, which is why the money has been spent or at least budgeted by districts and charters. However, $30.6 million funded Students Come First programs that, by law, no longer exist. Lawmakers have to do something with that money and they have three options:

  1. They could fund items according to the laws that were repealed. They would reallocate money for items such as the “Use it or Lose it” provision, which gave districts flexibility with $24.6 million in salary money. For districts like Meridian, the money adds up to $6 million. Lawmakers also have the option to return money to technology, math and science teachers, dual credits for students and professional development. If some of the professional development money isn’t restored, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation said in a letter to budget writers that it would withhold $4.5 million for a computer program that tracks student progress. The Albertson Foundation promised $21 million in 2011 for a student-performance-monitoring software from SchoolNet Inc., a New York company. Luna said the state agreed to fund professional development for the software implementation over a three-year period.
  2. The money could be put in an education savings account.
  3. The money could go to something other than education, but this is unlikely to occur because it requires a two-thirds majority vote from JFAC. Sen. Dean Cameron, a co-chair of the budget committee, said he would not endorse the idea of funding something besides education. Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde also said the votes to move the money don’t exist.

FY 2014 Budget (July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014)

During his State of the State address on Jan. 7, Gov. Butch Otter recommended a 2 percent increase in education funding for 2013-14.

The biggest missing line item is the $38 million that would have been spent on Pay for Performance. It was paid to teachers in 2012-13, but the program was discontinued with the Nov. 6 repeal of the merit pay law. Otter has recommended giving $34 million in spending authority to his education task force, a group of 31 education and business leaders that is meeting for the second time on Friday. The task force would need to make recommendations for spending those millions before the 2013 Legislature adjourns.

“I look forward to (giving this presentation),” Luna said. “I enjoy the question and answer part. I also have the opportunity to talk about some of the highlights going on in education.”

Disclosure: A grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation funds Idaho Education News.

Come back to this website later for the details of Luna’s budget and reaction from lawmakers.
Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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