Idaho Schools’ Chief Wants 3 Percent Increase In Education Spending

Jan 24, 2013

Idaho’s Superintendent of Education asked lawmakers Thursday to increase funding for public schools by 3 percent. For some details on that proposed budget our education reporter Adam Cotterell joined All Things Considered host Samantha Wright in the studio.

Here follows a transcript of that conversation:

Samantha Wright: Adam Where should we start?

Adam Cotterell: How about where Superintendent Tom Luna started with lawmakers?

Superintendent Tom Luna last September explaining his budget recommendation. That had to be re-written after the Students Come First repeal.
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Tom Luna: “A lot has occurred since I stood before you a year ago.”

Cotterell: The biggest occurrence Luna is talking about is the repeal of his Students Come First laws last November. Voters rejected those through Props 1, 2 and 3. In addition to getting rid of things voters didn’t want that repeal took about $30 million out of the public school budget. That’s money a lot of districts have already spent on things like hiring more math and science teachers and classroom technology. So before we even get to his budget for next year Luna wants it clear where he stands on that money for this year. Here’s what he told reporters after his presentation.

Tom Luna: “My recommendation is that every dollar that districts were to receive, they get. And every program, like professional development or whatever, that teachers were expecting that it’s delivered.”

Cotterell: Democrats in the legislature agree with Luna, a rare thing. But many Republicans do too. In fact some prominent Republicans thought in the first week they’d easily be able give schools permission to use that $30 million. But so far they’ve been blocked by others who want to use the money for tax cuts.

Wright: So how about next year, Luna’s recommendation is more than the governor’s.

Cotterell: That’s right. Luna wants a nearly $38 million bump. That’s about $12 million more than the governor. But I think it’s important to note that both recommendations represent the first increase to Idaho’s total education budget in five years. Last year lawmakers upped state spending but federal money went down and the total amount stayed flat.

Wright: What does Luna want that was not in the governor’s recommendation?

Cotterell: He seems to be relying on the assumption that lawmakers are going to reinstate a few provisions of the repealed Students Come First laws. These are some of the more popular parts that do have some bipartisan support like dual college credit for high school students and hiring more math and science teachers. But both the governor and Luna are relying on a big hypothetical in their recommendations. They each have nearly $34 million set aside to fund recommendations the governor’s education improvement task force might make this session. But after one meeting so far of that group it’s not clear if they will make any recommendations this year. But Luna thinks that $34 million will stay in the budget.

Tom Luna: “I also don’t think that we’re going to not be able to get input from the task force on how to use those dollars going forward. So this just like I said, unchartered territory.”

Wright: OK Adam, one more takeaway from Luna’s proposed education budget.

Cotterell: He wants to raise the base teacher salary from around $30,000 a year to $31,000.