Roundup, 3.7.13: Budget skirmish, and more

A budget dustup: The Senate Education Committee debated sharply over a $21 million piece of the proposed 2013-14 budget — money that would go toward professional development and locally crafted pay-for-performance plans.

Several committee members balked at approving legislative “intent language” that would explain how the money might be spent, and said the money might be sent to districts to spend at their discretion — or put into the public schools’ rainy-day account. And Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, criticized the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee for putting the Education Committee under a deadline; JFAC wants to discuss the intent language Friday morning.

“They’ve got the ability to get themselves out of the box if they wanted to,” he said.

JFAC co-chair Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said the $21 million plan passed JFAC on a 15-5 vote, and said it was unlikely the committee would vote to move the money around.

Cameron and Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, agreed to discuss the issue Thursday night.

Charter buildings: Senate Education heard testimony — but took no action — on House Bill 206, which would earmark $1.4 million for stipends for charter school buildings. The committee adjourned without a vote, because the Senate was going back into session late Thursday afternoon. The committee will take up the bill again Monday.

Student groups: The Senate OK’d a bill on student faith groups; supporters say their intent is to prohibit public colleges and universities from discriminating against religious student groups. The vote was 30-5. Voting no were Democrats Les Bock, Cherie Buckner-Webb and Elliot Werk of Boise; Dan Schmidt of Moscow; and Michelle Stennett of Ketchum. Senate Bill 1078 now goes to the House.

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School bond issues: The House signed off on a bill that would allow school districts to pass 30-year bond issues. Currently, school bonds must be paid off within 20 years, although cities and counties can issue 30-year bonds. Here’s a link to House Bill 218 and the 43-25 roll call vote. The bill now goes to the Senate.

‘Use it or lose it:’ The Idaho Association of School Administrators wants school districts to have one more year of spending flexibility — known in the vernacular as “use it or lose it.” This provision allows districts to shift some money from salaries to other needs. A bill, introduced in the House Education Committee, would keep this provision in place for 2013-14.

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