For school districts across Idaho, a $709 million election day looms.
At least 45 of Idaho’s 115 school districts will seek bond issues, plant facilities levies or supplemental levies on March 14, according to Idaho Education News research. The bottom line: At least $709.2 million in ballot measures are on ballot.
Under Idaho law, school districts can run ballot measures on four election days: in March, May, August and November.
Why the logjam on March 14? Timing is certainly a factor.
On Feb. 9, House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding convinced the House Local Government Committee to introduce a proposal to reduce Idaho’s two-thirds supermajority.
And that’s as far as it’s likely to go. Erpelding has been told his proposal will not get a hearing. By his count, there have been 11 attempts to reduce the supermajority since 1990, and none have made it through the Legislature.
“I guess I can get in line,” Erpelding, D-Boise, said Friday.
House Speaker Scott Bedke has joined 140 GOP officials in endorsing Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s controversial choice for education secretary.
Bedke co-signed a letter calling DeVos “an advocate and ally for all children.” The letter was signed by state school superintendents, lieutenant governors and legislators from all 50 states. Bedke was the lone Idahoan to sign on — and said he did so at the urging of the Republican National Committee.
Idaho’s average teacher salary has increased by slightly more than 5 percent since 2015, when the state adopted a five-year plan to boost pay.
Like many averages, this number tells only part of the story.
In 26 districts and charters across Idaho, average salaries increased by more than 10 percent. In 19 districts and charters, the average actually decreased — which happens when experienced teachers retire or resign, and entry-level teachers take their place.
In Erika Carpenter’s second-grade class, a handful of students are working on the basics of reading. They are sounding out letters, one by one, in small words: real words and nonsense words alike.
Down the hall at Boise’s Koelsch Elementary School, kindergartners are working on similar drills. The second-graders are trying to catch up — and there is no way to rush them along. The best way to bridge the gap is through constant and time-consuming repetition.
The Idaho numbers defy the national trends; overall, enrollment dropped by 1.3 percent in this same time period. Idaho’s 3.2 percent increase also ranked fourth in the nation, trailing only New Hampshire, Utah and Arizona.
Idaho students topped the national average in a 2015 standardized science test.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress tested fourth-, eighth- and 12th-graders in science — and on Thursday morning, NAEP released state results for fourth and eighth grades. NAEP tests are not given in all schools in Idaho or elsewhere, but are instead administered to a sample of U.S. schools.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have found plenty to talk about in two testy, nationally televised debates.
But K-12 hasn’t made its way through the noise.
And there’s no guarantee Wednesday night’s third and final debate will be any different.
So, if the two major party candidates were forced to debate K-12 topics, what would it sound like? To get a sense of how a K-12 debate might play out, Idaho Education News gleaned comments from the candidates’ websites and media interviews.
Question: What letter grade would you give the nation’s schools?
If the 2017 Legislature wants to add another $100 million or so to the K-12 budget, it looks like the money will be there.
On Tuesday morning, legislative budget-writers started looking over some of the numbers that will define the session that will begin in early January. And while their counterparts in other states are facing the prospect of spending cuts, Idaho lawmakers could have ample tax revenues on hand.
Districts across the state will collect at least $7.7 million in “emergency” property taxes — money designed to cover the costs of growth.
In school funding parlance, the additional taxes are known as emergency levies. School districts qualify for emergency levies if their preliminary fall student numbers are up from the preceding year. School boards can pass an emergency levy without voter approval.
And for districts in the state’s growth areas, the emergency levy is a perennial tax of sorts — even though trustees can only approve the tax for one year at a time.