State Board approves extra COVID funds to help schools

The State Board of Education Monday agreed to use extra COVID-19 relief funds to help districts balance their budgets in the 2021 school year, after some worried they might fall short because of the way the Legislature appropriated the federal money.

The board will spend $11.8 million from a pool of State Board-controlled relief funds to make sure those districts break even this year, and provide them a bit of extra money.

Concerns arose in late March after the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee decided to split up a pot of federal stimulus dollars, called ESSER II, for districts to spend half in fiscal year 2021 and half in 2022. Some superintendents said they needed the full allocation to cover state cuts to discretionary funding.

Many of those districts have a low number of students who qualify for Title I programs, which include programs for homeless students, low-income students and other specific groups. The ESSER funding is weighed to provide more funding to districts with more disadvantaged students.

The board also took early action to make sure low Title I districts would share in a new pot of money coming to the state through the American Rescue Plan Act, passed in March. Schools are expected to receive $439.9 million in ESSER III money from ARPA. Though the Legislature hasn’t appropriated the money yet, the State Board agreed to set aside about 2.5 percent to help districts with few Title I students.

The vote also signaled to the Legislature how the State Board wants those dollars divvied up. Instead of releasing some ESSER III funds in fiscal year 2022, and others in 2023 — like JFAC did with ESSER II funds — the board recommends releasing all the money in fiscal year 2022 and allowing districts to carry extra money over to fiscal year 2023.

Andy Avalos’ $1.4 million contract approved

The State Board also approved a $1.4 million annual starting contract for Boise State University’s new football coach Andy Avalos. Avalos will be just the second former Boise State football player to coach the team. He is relocating from the University of Oregon where he worked as defensive coordinator for the past two seasons.

The contract lasts five years. Avalos is eligible for an annual raise of $75,000, which could take his pay to $1.7 million by 2026. See this story by the Idaho Statesman for more details on the contract.

Due to an apparent clerical error, State Board members did not review a list of comparative contracts among coaches in the Mountain West conference before approving Avalos’ salary. University lawyer Matt Wilde said the school submitted the comparison to the board, but the document was missing from the final board packet. Wilde described Avalos’ contract as “right in the mix” of other Mountain West schools, and “more competitive than most.”

Board Member Kurt Liebich asked for the comparison, not just with Mountain West but with Power Five teams.

“Boise State fans expect us to win the Mountain West but they also expect us to win the Fiesta Bowl,” Liebich said.  “I think you all have done a wonderful job of hiring coaches, throughout the history of the program, without the resources that a lot of the schools we are expected to compete with have.”

The board also approved a $410,000 annual base salary for new Boise State Athletic Director Jeramiah Dickey.

 

About Sami Edge

Reporter Sami Edge, a University of Oregon graduate, joined Idaho Education News in 2019. She is a 2019 Education Writers Association fellow reporting on Latino student outcomes in Idaho. She also is a 2019 American Press Institute fellow. She can be reached at [email protected].

Read more stories by Sami Edge »

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