Here are the prepared remarks for state superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s presentation to the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee:
Chairman Cameron, Chairman Bell, members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee:
My name is Sherri Ybarra. As a former teacher, a mother, and the newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, I am honored to present to you today, the FY 2016 budget on behalf of the children of Idaho.
I am submitting to you a budget that represents my vision for college and career readiness in Idaho education, and indicates the direction I intend to take this department over the next four years.
Some of the provisions we are presenting today are based upon the belief that local trustees and administrators have a much better understanding and perspective of the specific needs and problems in their own communities than we have from Boise. I think we all agree that local control is how we can best serve Idaho’s children.
Local empowerment is a fundamental belief of the people of Idaho that I fully embrace. I am dedicated to creating conditions under which the Department of Education’s policies will be driven by the needs of the districts – from the bottom up, not the top down.
Our job is to assist them, to be a service agency supporting their efforts, and to do that, I have already designated a position of community relations officer, held by Dr. Chuck Zimmerly, an experienced and accomplished educational leader. This new position will focus on working with Idaho school districts to build, foster and support communication and relationships with the districts, as well as other state and local stakeholders.
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I believe that the state is not, and should not be, the only source of ideas. There are 115 school districts and 48 charter schools out there, all of whom have, within their ranks, innovative teachers and administrators whose ideas we must help grow so they can flourish throughout the entire spectrum of Idaho education. We can do that best by empowering them with increased locally controlled — discretionary resources — that would allow them to put their ideas into practice, while meeting local needs and conditions.
We know that change — both internal and external — is sometimes overwhelming, but we must proceed, for our students in Idaho. Because the economy appears to be robust, projected revenues are stronger than they have been in years, and there is legislative optimism for making significant gains in education funding, perhaps even a collective desire to exceed the most optimistic of recommendations.
I am grateful for that support, which is good news for Idaho’s children, parents, and educators. These exciting possibilities will provide us with opportunities to advance teacher accountability and student success beyond the scope of this budget.
By listening to all the voices that are concerned about education in Idaho, we can identify collective problems that are common across our state. Recruitment and retention of qualified teachers, low starting teacher pay, increased use of supplemental levies, providing common sense technology and accountability measures, federal mandates, testing complications, and classrooms that are too crowded, just to name a few.
We know that 30 children in a first-grade classroom results in “more crowd control” and decreased over-all achievement, which does affect learning for the next 11 years, in which a child never gets that time back. With that, I will roll out a proposal that will address classroom crowding in the critical kindergarten to third-grade classes by placing a statutory limit on classroom size for those grades.
On a parallel path, I am working on modifications to the NCLB (ESEA) waiver to resolve numerous issues concerning federal mandates and testing — that are burdening our school districts and hindering their ability to affect student achievement and outcomes.
My plan will also offer for consideration a pilot project for implementation of a career ladder plan with nine school districts and one charter school across the state — allowing those districts to determine the sustainability and actual costs for full implementation. They will fill in the blanks for us. The plan also includes implementation of a two-tiered licensure process, for certified staff, and an across-the-board pay increase for teachers.
That is what I will be working on over the next few weeks in the pursuit of a fiscally sound, accountable and innovative path forward for education.
There are two components to my presentation before you today, the first involving the Department of Education budget, and the second involving the much larger and more complicated public schools budget.
If the committee is in agreement, I am prepared to move forward with those presentations: The State Department’s request is for $32, 330,400. We also have a Fiscal Year 2014-15 supplemental request that we will deal with at the supplemental hearing.
SDE BUDGET ENHANCEMENTS:
1) Fingerprint Program — This requests general funds to backfill a shortfall in dedicated funds for our fingerprint program. The additional funds would cover salaries and benefits. We are running a parallel path for a policy solution to this request. The fingerprint fee of $40 can be found in IC 33-130. This fee has been unchanged since 1996. The department in 2012 and 2014 attempted a policy solution and failed. This is why I am bringing this forward again, to reflect the rising costs of the program. (Request: $110,000.)
2) Office of Certification — This requests general funds to backfill a shortfall in dedicated funds for our teacher certification program. The additional funds would cover salaries and benefits. We are running a parallel path for a policy solution to this request. The certification fee of $75 can be found in the IDAPA rules (08.02.02.066). This fee has been unchanged since 2003. (Request: $50,000.)
3) Science and Aerospace Scholars Program – The SDE received one NASA grant in 2009. That grant was to fund the 2010-11 and 2011-12 program years. The SDE was very efficient in managing the grant funding and we were able to extend the NASA grant for a third year, covering the 2012-2013 program year. The grant expired Dec. 31, 2013. One-time funding was then appropriated for FY15 to continue the efforts.
We received in-kind contributions from ISAS partners including: Boise State College of Engineering, College of Arts and Science, Division of Research, College of Education, $32,900; Idaho Digital Learning Academy, $20,000; Boise State Concurrent Enrollment Program, $7,700; Micron Technology, $10,200; Idaho Space Grant Consortium, $1,500; H-P Boise, $550.
The program currently serves 137 students in its online class, with capacity for 180, with a focus on STEM education. Of those, 88 students will be selected to attend the Summer Academy at the NASA Research Ames center. (Request: $450,900.)
4) Tiered Licensure (Certification) Coordinator — This has been supported by the governor. We are asking for the associated full-time positions with it. This request includes salaries and benefits and operating dollars for a new tiered certification coordinator. This position could grow in the future, depending on the results of the pilot program. (Request: $95,200.)
5) Digital Learning Coordinator — You see before you this request, which includes salaries and benefits and operating dollars for a new digital learning coordinator. The governor did not support this request. I do not support this request either, as it was a carryover from the previous budget request, and after just three weeks on the job, I would like to work with you on this request as a purchasing and contracts officer, instead. We handle over 1,000 contracts a year. I think it is prudent and necessary to have someone to review those every year. I’m responsible and I need this position for oversight. (Request: $109,600.)
BUDGET FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS:
With your permission, I’d like to move on now to the public schools budget. I would like to direct your attention to page 1-7. As you can see in the budget book before you, I am requesting a budget increase of $87.3 million, a 6.4 percent increase from last year’s budget for a total of $1.462 billion.
There are four major components of this request that I would like to briefly highlight. The first is a shift in operational money.
In the effort to address the unique challenges school districts face, we are proposing just over $18.7 million be moved from mandated, non-discretionary lines of the budget, to the operational category of the budget — without restriction — thus allowing local authorities, who know their needs best, the option of deciding where to allocate their resources. This is in addition to the $10 million that was already requested, for a total of $28.759 million. The current distribution factor is $22,401 dollars. This request would increase it to $24,160, an increase of $1,759 or 7.9 percent.
Second is the career ladder. I am asking for $25 million towards the career ladder — stay tuned for the details.
Third is my request for an increase in classroom technology funds. I am asking for an additional $9 million (going from $10.4 million to $19.4 million).
Finally, I am asking for statutory restoration of the lottery and safe and drug-free monies. This restores $8.4 million from lottery money, used for facilities maintenance, and the safe and drug-free program, which had been diverted during the economic downturn.
With that, I am ready to take the committee’s questions.