Trustees to consider facilities funding, vouchers and other issues at annual convention

School board trustees would like to see higher wages for classified staff and more state funding for new school buildings, according to resolutions proposed for the Idaho School Boards Association’s annual convention.

Around 600 trustees and their administrators from across the state will gather in Coeur d’Alene next week for the three-day meeting.

The event will also determine the organization’s leadership and legislative directives for 2023.

Boise trustee Nancy Gregory will succeed current ISBA president Jason Knopp. ISBA members will vote for a new president-elect and vice president.

Current ISBA vice president and Dietrich trustee Starr Olsen will run for president-elect. Brian Pyper, a regional representative on the executive board and trustee in the Madison school district, is running for ISBA vice president.

Candidates for both positions are running unopposed, but it’s possible they’ll see competition if any member decides to run from the floor.

ISBA members will also vote on at least 14 proposed resolutions, deciding which issues to lobby for during the legislative session that starts in January. The ISBA’s executive board has recommended passing all 14 resolutions.

The proposals, said ISBA director of policy and government affairs Quinn Perry, reflect the trending concerns in school districts across the state. “These issues are really the top things on the minds of school leaders.”

School facilities funding

Four proposals address the longstanding question of how to pay for new schools, a conversation that’s gained traction as districts deal with aging and overcrowded buildings, growth and repeat bond failures.

After lawmakers added $330 million to the K-12 budget during a Sept. 1 special legislative session, the resolutions’ supporters want to see action on the facilities issue.

The proposals include:

  • Increasing the term of a plant facilities levy from 10 years to 20 years. These levies go toward updates and repairs like remodels, fixing bathrooms and other facility needs. Spreading the levy over 20 years rather than 10 would lower the burden on taxpayers, and expand options for construction and maintenance projects, the proposal states. The Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Lakeland school districts proposed this resolution.
  • Revising and expanding the “School Safety and Health Revolving Grant Fund.” Fund modifications would allow districts to apply for funding for maintenance and construction projects. The proposal suggests lawmakers use money from the state’s surplus to kick off the program, and appropriate additional dollars every year. The West Bonner district proposed this resolution.
  • Extending Idaho’s impact fee law to address “public school facilities.” Brought forward by the Kuna district, the proposal would give districts access to an additional source of facilities funding, proportionate to the development and growth within a school district. The ISBA has advocated for impact fees in the past.
  • Granting K-12 districts access to the Permanent Building Fund, which sets aside money for construction and maintenance of state buildings. The proposal suggests the Legislature allocate $300 million to the fund for K-12 facilities. The Moscow and Kuna districts proposed this resolution.

Labor shortages

The proposal with the longest list of co-sponsors suggests a funding boost to support classified staff.

Most districts are facing a shortage of classified staff, non-teaching individuals like paraprofessionals, bus drivers, IT technicians, human resources directors and others.

“Even though the Legislature has made a fairly significant investment…this is still one of the bleeding wounds of school budgets,” Perry said. “We need to be able to attract and retain these positions that are essential to operations.”

The proposal, brought forward by 11 districts and the Monticello Montessori Board of Directors, suggests an increase to the salary formula for classified staff.

“This could be addressed with changes to the base salary, adjustments to the unit factor, and/or creating a salary allocation model for highly skilled classified staff – whichever policies bring the classified staff allocation closer to the actual salary thresholds necessary for local school districts and charter schools to attract and retain these necessary professionals,” the proposal states.

Voucher opposition

ISBA members will vote on a resolution opposing any effort to divert public school dollars to private or parochial schools.

The proposal – brought forward by the Boise School District and two Meridian charters – lists vouchers, tax credits and education savings accounts potential threats to public school funding.

Diverting funds, according to the proposal, “will cause irreparable harm to our existing system of public school districts and charters, especially in rural Idaho, and will likely harm overall student achievement.”

The House Education Committee rejected a bill this year to create education savings accounts, which would have allowed families to spend up to $5,950 in state funds on private school tuition and fees.

Opponents argued that the bill violates Idaho’s Blaine Amendment, which outlaws the use of public funds for parochial schools. The ISBA and other education organizations argued that diverting funding would put public schools, especially those in rural areas, at risk.

The bill was narrowly killed in committee, but ISBA members expect to see the idea arise again come January.

“We know that debate and discussion is coming,” said Perry.

School safety, enrollment-based funding among other resolutions

ISBA members will vote on at least eight more resolutions next week.

Here’s the full list of 14 resolutions, with each statement of purpose published in full:

No. 1Classified Staff Funding

In the years since the state’s salary based apportionment formula was enacted, school districts and charter schools have made significant changes in how they are run. The number and percentage of classified staff and technology specialists that manage human resources and technology operations has increased dramatically. The portion of the State formula that funds classified salaries and benefits was designed with custodians, school secretaries, aides in mind. The need for highly skilled human resource specialists as well as professional business managers and technology specialists to manage the complex and technical aspects of a school district and charter school has changed the role for these classified positions. Districts and charter schools now employ more professional business managers, human resource directors, network administrators, web masters, IT specialists, etc. and other skilled classified staff than ever before. Additionally, many of these professional and technical employees are hired to meet state and federal mandated requirements, including reporting in the Idaho System for Educational Excellence (ISEE), the state’s longitudinal data system.

This resolution calls for changes in the SBA formula to better reflect the need to increase the salaries and the number of FTE’s funded by the classified portion of the formula.

Sponsors: Kuna, Twin Falls, Castleford, Murtaugh, West Bonner, Filer, Blaine County, Buhl, Wendell, Kimberly, Madison, Monticello Montessori

ISBA recommendation: Do Pass

No. 2School Safety Funding

School Board Members are statutorily responsible for the safety of the students and staff in each of their school districts and charter schools, and school safety is a general concern of Idaho citizens. Around the state, the needs of each school or district may differ – some may want to provide specialized training for staff, others may hire new or additional school resource officers, and others may need facility upgrades. Because none of these items are funded by a specific appropriation, they could put additional burdens on voter-approved tax levies or financially strain existing school budgets. This resolution would direct the ISBA to work with key partners to establish a “School Safety Grant Program” that public schools could apply to for funds that meet their individual needs for school safety.

Sponsors: Marsing

ISBA recommendation: Do Pass

No. 3Opposition to Diverting Public Funds

School choice is an integral part of public education in the state of Idaho. Public school choice includes charter, magnet, at-risk alternative, virtual, and traditional schools where dual language, classical, harbor, international, Montessori, Career

Technical, STEM, and STEAM programs, among others. These programs are an integral part of what public education already offers across Idaho, funded by state tax dollars.

Idaho’s current (2022) investment in our children’s public schools ranks 50th in the country. Reducing the general fund by offering a tax credit for donations to scholarship programs or diverting already scarce resources to provide vouchers to private schools will further erode funding to current public schools all across Idaho. If our state constitution is changed, Idaho’s investment in public education will become even smaller as our taxes will be siphoned off to unaccountable private and parochial schools. We oppose amending The Idaho State Constitution, Article IX, §5, Idaho Code, also known as the Blaine Amendment, for the reasons outlined above. Idaho already has substantial choice in its public school system.

A voucher, tax-credit, or scholarship program will cause irreparable harm to our existing system of public school districts and charters, especially in rural Idaho, and will likely harm overall student achievement.

Sponsors: Boise, Meridian Medical Arts Charter, Meridian Technical Charter

ISBA recommendation: Do Pass

No. 4Amending School Age for Flexibility

Currently Section 33-201, Idaho Code, prevents school districts and charter schools from using state dollars to support kindergarten preparedness programs for four-year- olds. By amending the current age, it will allow flexibility for local districts and charter schools to use state dollars as they see appropriate in supporting children entering kindergarten. There are no dollars attached to changing the code. It simply allows school districts and charter schools more choice in using the funding they receive in a manner that best fits their local community. This resolution would not amend the age threshold for a child enrolling in kindergarten or first grade. Nor would it be compulsory for local districts or charters to establish such programs.

Sponsors: Boise, Monticello Montessori

ISBA recommendation: Do Pass

No. 5 Increase Terms on School Plant Facility Levy

Changing the allowable term for a school plant facilities reserve fund levy from a period not to exceed ten years, to a period not to exceed 20 years in Idaho Code 33-804 would allow districts to access funding under the school plant facilities reserve fund levy. It would allow for a more reasonable threshold for voter approval based on the dollar amount the district needs. Further, extending the term will allow districts to ask the voting electors of the district for a necessary amount of funding over a longer period of time to help maintain lower local tax rates. This modification will assist school districts in expanding options available to manage their needs for large construction and maintenance projects in a district.

Sponsors: Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Lakeland

ISBA recommendation: Do Pass

No. 6Personnel Funding Flexibility

While provisions have been put in place in Idaho Code 33-1004, to compare or group similarly situated districts, the current model only grants one student above the state average in a similarly sized district before being considered out of compliance. In a majority of instances, district and charters are penalized for being out of compliance by slightly more than one student per teacher.

Because the student to teacher average is based on all funds available to a district rather than state reimbursed funds only, the districts with generous supplemental levies who hire additional certified staff impact the state average for their respective groups, creating an inequitable calculation process. Thus, districts without this supplemental funding are at a disadvantage and lose discretion of one percent of personnel funding flexibility each year under the current model.

Sponsors: Pocatello Chubbuck, Bonneville, Madison

ISBA recommendation: Do Pass

No. 7Revolving Loan Grant Fund for School Facilities

Obtaining funding for capital improvements is a hardship on local districts and charter schools. Lottery dollars are not sufficient, and bond elections are controversial and are difficult to pass with 2/3rds majority. The fiscal impact of this resolution shall be determined on an annual basis dependent on excess funding received for the year.

Sponsors: West Bonner

ISBA recommendation: Do Pass

No. 8Impact Fees for School Districts

Adding “Public School Facilities” to the definition of “Public Facilities” in Section 67- 8203(24) would allow school districts to access funding under Title 67 Chapter 82 for the purpose stated in Idaho Code 67-8202, namely to create “an equitable program for planning and financing public facilities needed to serve new growth and development,” which “is necessary in order to promote and accommodate orderly growth and development and to protect the public health, safety, and general welfare of the citizens of the state of Idaho”.

Sponsors: Kuna

ISBA recommendation: Do Pass

No. 9Five Percent Holdback Restoration

This change will help restore technology, professional development, and content and curriculum line items in the State K-12 budget. This will save districts from having to use their general funds to cover these items when ESSER funds no longer exist.

Sponsors: Kuna, Madison

ISBA recommendation: Do Pass

No. 10 – Consistent and Fair Application of Land Use Planning

Changing the language in Idaho Code § 67-6513 from “may” to “shall” will remove an inconsistency in current law and give city and county land use entities consistency in application of the law. It will more strongly point out the need to require mitigation of the effects of subdivision development on Idaho school districts. It will also authorize planning entities to consider the burdens more consistently on current residents in a more consistent, even-handed, and judicious way while still balancing private property rights and interests.

Sponsors: Kuna

ISBA recommendation: Do Pass

No. 11 – GED Success Tracking

In the past, if a student did not complete the common course of study, and instead chose to complete the GED program, it was considered to be less than a common high school diploma. However, that is not the case anymore. Often, there are students who complete a General Education Degree for a variety of reasons. Therefore, Idaho should remove the stigma of a General Education Degree by changing the current reporting of graduation rate to allow GED to count as a successful course of study for those students under the age of 21.

Sponsors: Kuna

ISBA recommendation: Do Pass

No. 12Transportation Contract Flexibility 

In all the time that we, Moscow Charter School, have needed bussing for our students we have contracted with the Moscow School District (“MSD”) for transportation services. They provide services to our students on the same bus routes that already serve the kids in our community that attend MSD schools. As a result of this, they have received our funding and have reported our students under their reports. We are billed monthly based on the agreed upon rate of our contract (created and signed each year) for the number of students who ride the bus. The established rate is based upon the need to cover additional costs associated with running the program for our students. This year we were told that we were not in compliance with State code and were no longer able to continue this mutual relationship with them for transportation services. We spent several hours writing our RFP and received one bid: MSD. We will spend additional time this upcoming school year with audits and end of year reporting that MSD used to do with us under their program.

Sponsors: Moscow, Moscow Charter, Madison

ISBA recommendation: Do Pass

No. 13One-Time Facility Funding and Eligibility for Permanent Building Funds

School districts facing rapidly increasing enrollment or in need of repair or replacement due to aging school facilities, only have one option for the construction of new facilities: passage of a bond that places a burden on property owners. Meanwhile, the State of Idaho is holding a large surplus of funds that could help the state meet their constitutional requirement of maintaining an equitable educational program and reduce the burden of possible increases in property taxes to the citizens of Idaho.

Sponsors: Moscow, Kuna

ISBA recommendation: Do Pass

No. 14 Enrollment Based Funding

Enrollment based funding removes the uncertainty and instability districts face in the funding they will receive from the state when average daily attendance is used to set the funding level for each district, especially since the COVID 19 pandemic began and daily absences have significantly increased. This change also fits in with the legislature’s recent focus on providing non-traditional learning models to students, such as with extended learning opportunities and self-directed learners. It is also a more accurate way to provide the level of resources districts and public charter schools need to meet their obligation to be prepared to educate all students that are enrolled than the current method.

Sponsors: St. Maries, Kootenai, Kuna, Madison, Monticello Montessori

ISBA recommendation: Do Pass

Check back next week for complete coverage of the annual ISBA convention. 

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected].

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