Senate Ed holds Students Come First ‘fix’

A bill aiming to make school districts whole following the Students Come First repeal was sidetracked again Thursday.

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Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene

Senate Education Committee members voted to hold House Bill 65 in committee, subject to the call of Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene.

The bill’s advocates say it is intended to make sure school districts don’t miss out on more than $30 million in funding they planned on before voters repealed Propositions 1, 2 and 3 in November. The bill would apply to districts’ current budgets, but would not direct spending beyond this year.

The bill would earmark $4.8 million for more math and science teachers, provide $16.2 million for professional development and technology and ensure districts don’t miss out on $4 million for one year of education credits that were frozen on the salary table. Districts would also be able have spending flexibility with 9.5 percent of use-it-or-lose-it salary money.

Nobody spoke for or against House Bill 65 during Thursday’s hearing, and lawmakers neither debated nor contested the move to hold it up.

The House passed the bill unanimously on Feb. 19, but it remained untouched in the Senate for a month before resurfacing in the Senate Education Committee.

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Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls

Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, made the motion to hold the bill up. After the hearing, Mortimer said he made the motion because Goedde asked him to.

Interestingly, Mortimer and Goedde joined House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, in sponsoring House Bill 65.

Goedde said the bill isn’t dead, but his committee won’t meet again until next week – which legislative leaders have targeted as the final week of the 2013 session.

While the clock may well be ticking on unresolved legislation, Goedde said House Bill 65 could later be sent out for amendments. That could take even more time, because the House would have to reconsider the bill with any amendments attached before it could be adopted.

Goedde said there are “a lot of moving pieces” with budgets and money, and he wanted to wait on dealing with House Bill 65. One moving pieces is the 2013-14 school budget, which was introduced in the House Wednesday.

When the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee set the school budget March 4, Mortimer was one of five Republican senators who objected to it. Mortimer struggled with intent language that would direct about $33.9 million to technology, compensation and professional development. He also attempted to pass a different version of the budget with a less money but a bigger increase in minimum teacher salaries and a higher percentage of funding available for discretionary spending.

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