Ybarra makes one last push for teacher pay, raises for staffers

In her eighth and final budget request, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra is pushing for additional pay raises for teachers and staffers.

Ybarra is proposing an additional $158.7 million for K-12 — a 6.9% increase for the budget year beginning July 1. Nearly half of the new money would go into pay raises.

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra pitches her budget proposal to lawmakers in January. Idaho’s next state superintendent — Republican Debbie Critchfield or Democrat Terry Gilbert — will present Ybarra’s final budget request to lawmakers in January.

Ybarra’s budget request totals close to $2.5 billion, and that does not account for the $330 million K-12 funding increase signed into law Thursday. Under state law, state agency heads and elected officials must submit their budget requests by Sept. 1. And this year, that was the same day legislators met for a one-day legislative session — approving Gov. Brad Little’s far-reaching bill combining $650 million in tax cuts with $410 million in new education programs.

“I applaud the governor and Legislature for making this investment in Idaho schools,” Ybarra said in a news release Tuesday, “but no one knows how that money will be allocated. And it doesn’t change the significant need for the programs and staffing funded by my budget request.”

Here are some of the key items in Ybarra’s request:

Teacher pay. Ybarra proposes a $59.1 million increase. Most of the increase is on autopilot — it’s the money needed to implement another year of the state’s career ladder teacher pay law. But Ybarra is proposing $15.7 million in new money to accelerate the career ladder.

Classified staffing. Ybarra is proposing an 8.5% increase in the pay pool for classified workers, such as bus drivers, classroom paraprofessionals and cafeteria staff. That would come to $16.1 million. Ybarra also proposes $2.5 million to cover staffing needs caused by growth. The requests come as many school administrators say they are struggling to fill classified jobs, as well as teaching positions.

“Idaho’s teacher shortage is still acute and must be addressed, along with the need for more paraprofessionals and the staff for everything from school buses to cafeterias,” Ybarra said. “To help kids and ensure they succeed, we need a full range of trained and committed workers in the schools.”

The state had a total of 458 staff vacancies Tuesday, according to the website EdJobsIdaho.

Insurance. Ybarra has proposed a $27.9 million increase to cover insurance costs. The 2022 Legislature approved a plan to encourage districts and charters to move their employees onto the state insurance plan — but the state didn’t fully fund the move.

Inflation. The budget includes an additional $23.8 million in operations funding — money schools can use at their discretion. This 8.5% increase is designed to offset inflation.

Classroom technology. Ybarra has proposed a $10 million increase, reversing a $10 million cut Little imposed at the start of the pandemic. All told, the Ybarra budget would reverse $25.6 million in cuts Little made in the spring of 2020, in areas such as training and IT staffing.

Ybarra’s request represents the first step in the 2023-24 budgeting process — and Ybarra’s final step in the process.

On Jan. 9, the first day of the 2023 session, the governor will present budget recommendations to the new Legislature, based on requests such as Ybarra’s. Then the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee writes budget bills, based on the agency requests and the governor’s recommendations, which have to pass both houses before going to the governor.

But Ybarra will not be there in 2023 to pitch for her budget, since she finished third in the May Republican primary. It will fall to Republican nominee Debbie Critchfield or Democrat Terry Gilbert to present Ybarra’s budget request to JFAC in late January.

 

Kevin Richert

About 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 KIVI 6 On Your Side; "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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