Sherri Ybarra’s budget hearing: a listener’s guide

Monday will be K-12 Day in the Legislature’s budget-writing committee.

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra is scheduled to be at the Statehouse to discuss her 2022-23 budget request.

It’s a big hearing, of course, because K-12 receives the biggest chunk of the state budget — by far. This year, public schools account for nearly 49% of the state’s general fund, covered largely by state sales and income tax collections.

Like all state agency heads, Ybarra submitted her budget request in late summer. Gov. Brad Little unveiled his spending plan last week.

But a lot has changed since Sept. 1, when Ybarra unveiled her request. A projected $1.4 billion surplus has continued to swell, and Little built his budget around a record-setting $1.9 billion surplus.

The growing surplus accounts for some differences between the Ybarra and Little budgets — but not all of them. Here’s a closer look at some areas where the two Republicans disagree, and where they agree.

The bottom line. Ybarra requested slightly more than $2.2 billion from the general fund, an 8.1% increase.

Little’s budget comes in at closer to $2.3 billion, an 11% increase.

The difference between the budgets, in raw dollars, comes to $60.7 million.

All-day kindergarten. Both Ybarra and Little have plans, but they differ slightly.

Ybarra’s plan comes in at $39.5 million.

Little’s plan would cost $46.7 million.

Neither plan would provide universal, all-day kindergarten. Ybarra’s plan would cover all-day kindergarten only for at-risk students. Little’s plan would provide money school districts could use for early literacy programs — which might or might not include all-day kindergarten.

Teacher pay. Here, the math gets messy.

Ybarra proposed an additional $82.8 million for the career ladder, Idaho’s teacher salary schedule. That comes to a 7.8% increase.

Little has requested $104 million, a 10% increase.

One big difference: Little has proposed using $36.5 million of federal coronavirus stimulus money to accelerate the career ladder — to pay for two years of raises at once.

Another difference: Little also wants to use federal money for one-time, $1,000 teacher bonuses, costing $17.8 million.

Employee benefits. A big difference here.

Ybarra proposed $11.6 million to address the rising out-of-pocket cost of health insurance. Little proposed $105.4 million — enough to bring school employees’ health benefits in line with state employees’ benefits.

Leadership premiums. To help pay for health insurance, Little wants to zero out the leadership premium program, which provides bonuses for teachers who take on added responsibilities or mentorship roles.

Ybarra wants to keep the program in place, at a cost of $20.5 million.

Literacy. Ybarra and Little agree on continuing Idaho’s early literacy program — at a price tag of $26.1 million. But that doesn’t count the $46.6 million Little wants for reading initiatives such as all-day kindergarten, which also appears under his literacy line item.

Advanced opportunities. Both Ybarra and Little want $33 million for this program, used largely to help high school students pay for dual-credit courses. This year’s budget is $29.7 million.

Monday will be JFAC’s first big education hearing of this year. Idaho’s college and university presidents will be before JFAC starting Jan. 25. (Click here for the schedule.)

JFAC is scheduled to start writing education budget bills on Feb. 18.

Check back at Idaho Education News Monday for full budget hearing coverage. 

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]

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