School funding committee gets to work next week

(UPDATED, 8:40 a.m., July 8, with details from Tuesday’s agenda.)

For the legislators who will review Idaho’s public school funding formula, summer break ends next week.

This legislative “interim committee” will meet Tuesday at the Statehouse. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. in room WW17, on the west wing of the Capitol’s underground garden level.

Here’s what you need to know for Tuesday’s meeting:

What’s on tap? No official agenda has been posted for Tuesday’s meeting. But based on a draft of the agenda, expect some rehash from the group’s April 6 and May 2 meetings. The group plans to spend some time discussing past audits of the school funding formula, prepared by the Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations. The last item on the agenda: a discussion of the committee’s next steps.

The overarching task before the committee is daunting. Its job is to review a complicated and delicate school funding formula that was last rewritten in 1994.

Why the rewrite? Committee members say it is time to modernize the funding formula to reflect changes in the K-12 system over the past 22 years — from online learning to classroom technology to charter schools.

But committee members have also acknowledged that a rewrite will take time. It’s possible that the committee will not have its work done in time for the 2017 legislative session. In the short run, it’s unlikely that Tuesday’s meeting will produce any breakthroughs.

Winder.4.6.16
Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, a co-chair of the funding formula committee.

What is an “interim committee?” It’s a panel assigned to spend the legislative off-season studying a complicated issue. Lawmakers usually create several interim committees every year. The committees can make recommendations to the full Legislature — which may or may not become law. Consequently, interim committees have a mixed record. Some prove to be more productive than others.

Who are the players? If the makeup of the 10-member committee is any indication, legislative leaders want results.

Wendy Horman
Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho, the House co-chair of the committee.

This committee will be chaired by Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise; and Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, a member of the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee who has played a lead role in drafting public school budgets the past two years. The Senate and House education committees have representatives on the committee. House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, is on the panel as well.

The committee’s two Democrats are Boise lawmakers with K-12 experience: Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, a retired teacher, and Rep. John McCrostie, a teacher.

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra will have a seat on the committee, and the State Board of Education will have a representative as well.

Check back Tuesday for coverage of the committee meeting.

More reading: Here’s our in-depth analysis of the school funding formula issue, with a look back to 1994.