Rapid fire: Senate passes seven K-12 budgets

Spending at the rate of $54 million a minute, the Senate wasted little time Wednesday passing seven K-12 budget bills.

The seven bills account for the bulk of K-12 funding for the budget year starting July 1. All seven bills passed on identical, 35-0 votes.

No senators debated the bills. The process — one of the big pieces of unfinished business for the 2016 legislative session — took only 29 minutes.

The Senate’s swift approval came two days after the House passed the budgets, also with overwhelming and bipartisan support.

A few highlights from the budgets approved Wednesday:

  • Funding the second year of the career ladder — a $41.5 million boost in teacher salaries.
  • A $27.3 million increase in “discretionary spending” for school districts. With this new money, districts will receive $25,696 per classroom to cover school operations — matching the per-classroom allocation schools received in 2008-09.
  • A 3 percent pay raise for administrators and classified staff, who are not covered by the career ladder.
  • Another $16.6 million for leadership premiums — bonuses awarded to teachers who take on additional responsibilities.
  • A $5 million boost in classroom technology budgets.

Wednesday’s budgets are not all-inclusive. Legislators still have to pass “trailer” spending bills that will cover other education line items — including, most notably, a $9.1 million budget to launch Gov. Butch Otter’s literacy initiative.

All told, legislators have drawn up a $1.58 billion spending plan for K-12 in 2016-17 — a 7.4 percent increase from 2015-16. That increase represents a magic number of sorts, since lawmakers wanted to match the 7.4 percent budget increase they approved a year ago.

But the 7.4 percent increase falls short of Otter’s request for a 7.9 percent increase. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Otter was disappointed with legislators’ spending plan.

Now, Otter gets the final word. The seven budgets are headed to his desk.



Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday