Education

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Legislation that would increase Idaho's public school funding and boost salary increases for teachers has only one remaining hurdle.

The Idaho House approved all seven pieces of the state's largest budget with almost no discussion on Monday, sending the bills to the governor's desk.

None of the bills — a combined $1.4 billion in general funds — garnered more than seven votes in opposition.

Under the proposals, public schools funding will increase by 7.4 percent to help fund the first year of the new teacher pay increase.

Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman

Later this week, the Boise State football team will play its annual spring scrimmage. The Broncos are three months removed from their third win in the Fiesta Bowl. Immediately after that game, university President Bob Kustra told a KTVB-TV reporter the victory would have a positive impact on the school.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Congressman Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, is lashing out at fellow Congressman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, over what Labrador perceives as criticism from Simpson.

Butch Otter
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

A plan to help school districts crack down on bullying in Idaho's public schools is on its way to the governor's desk.

The Idaho Senate passed the bill 24-10 on Monday.

The bill would require local school district leaders to go through anti-bullying training and create a way for bullying to be reported.

Democratic Sen. Jane Ward-Engelking from Boise, who sponsored the bill, says that bullying can lead to depression and anxiety among students, as well as problems keeping up with classwork.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

State education officials have delayed finalizing Idaho's No Child Left Behind waiver with the federal government until the end of April in order to pursue a more flexible agreement for local districts.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra announced the change to the House Education Committee on Monday.

She had just finished attending meetings with other state education heads in Washington, D.C.

Legislative auditors say Idaho wasted $61 million on a software system to track and improve student performance that doesn't work for most districts.

However, a top Idaho State Department of Education official on Tuesday says the blame does not rest with the agency's current administration.

In a new report released Monday, legislative auditors found that the department gave all school districts access to Schoolnet but did not provide enough financial support or technical training. The department then minimized the system's problems.

Christy Perry
Idaho Legislature

The Idaho House passed an anti-bullying measure Monday after some impassioned pleas from several lawmakers who talked about the experiences of their own children.

This is the latest of several attempts in recent years to pass bills aimed at strengthening Idaho’s anti-bullying laws. Some conservative lawmakers have been skeptical the issue can be regulated at the state level and worry they might be opening schools up to lawsuits.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

On Monday, two Idaho Republicans will tiptoe into a public preschool debate the state's Legislature hasn't been willing to confront. Idaho is one of 10 states without public preschool.

Reps. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, and Christy Perry, R-Nampa, are introducing a preschool pilot program they're calling "kindergarten preparedness."

A bill that would establish an expectation for Idaho schools to intervene when a kid is bullied is headed to the Idaho House floor.

BES Photo / Flickr Creative Commons

An Idaho House committee Wednesday introduced a revised plan for increasing teacher pay.

But Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, said the new version doesn’t fix a potentially divisive issue he said could backfire on the state.

Under the plan, experienced teachers who meet a high bar of performance criteria would be eligible for $4,000 bonuses called “master premiums.”

This story was updated at 5:30 p.m.

The latest revision of a bill to boost teacher pay in Idaho over the next five years showed promise of passing early Wednesday morning, but the legislation was killed just eight hours later.

The House Education Committee is now slated to vote on introducing a third amended version of the legislation Thursday.

The proposal presented Wednesday would have bumped beginning teacher pay from $31,750 to $32,700 a year. But Republican Rep. Ryan Kerby from New Plymouth balked at the way pay bonuses were structured.

The Idaho Legislature will likely extend past its targeted March 27 end-date now that a House panel has killed a long-awaited proposal to boost teacher pay.

The panel's decision on Wednesday came at the same time the state's budget committee announced it would delay setting the education budget. The joint committee's chairmen cited uncertainty over the teacher pay bill for pushing back their budget setting.

Idaho is among five U.S. states losing the largest amount of federal timber payments aimed at rural counties and school districts.

Congress let the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act expire in the fall of 2014, leaving Idaho counties and school districts with $26 million less than expected.

Idaho school districts say the state needs to offer better pay if it’s going to attract qualified teachers -- or keep the ones it has.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

One of the Idaho Legislature's most anticipated pieces of legislation has attracted hundreds of teachers, parents and educational state officials to the Capitol eager to testify and lobby for more money for public school teachers.

However, after listening to nearly three hours of testimony Tuesday morning, House lawmakers are still nowhere closer to sealing the fate of a bill that would pump $125 million into teacher salaries.

The Idaho House Education Committee is scheduled to continue listening to testimony at 2:30 p.m.

internet, computer, broadband,
Sean MacEntee / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho school districts are saving the state millions of dollars after being forced to negotiate their own broadband services to replace a state contract deemed illegal earlier this year.

State budget writers approved allocating $6.3 million on Monday to fund school broadband services for one more year.

The amount is based on data provided to the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee showing that most schools have negotiated their own contracts at much lower rates than the state did when it was in charge of the now obsolete Idaho Education Network.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The Basin School District in Idaho City has something most districts in the state don’t, preschool.

On Wednesdays, 12 preschoolers leave their small house-turned-school and walk across the playground to the high school’s music room. The children sit cross-legged in a circle and the music teacher hands out two brightly-colored sticks to each student. Music class for these preschoolers is all about rhythm, following directions, and giggling.

Congress let the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act expire in the fall of 2014, leaving Idaho counties and school districts with $26 million less than expected.

Idaho counties will bear the brunt of this loss. Seventy percent of Secure Rural Schools money goes to counties for things like road maintenance. Thirty percent goes to school districts.

Data from the Idaho Association of Counties shows Idaho County will lose more money than any other county, nearly $7.3 million.

A House panel is considering a plan to spend $2.5 million to support school counselors and lay out specific guidelines for their job descriptions.

The House Education Committee introduced the bill Thursday.

Marilyn Whitney, education liaison for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, says counselors often get sidetracked by having to substitute teach or maintain records.

According to the bill, counselors should spend their time helping students choose academic courses and work with students with disciplinary problems.

Jay Yohe / Flickr Creative Commons

An Idaho House committee has ushered in a roughly $215 million plan to boost teacher pay over the next five years with the hope of attracting and retaining the state's instructors.

Members on the House Education Committee unanimously approved the proposed legislation Wednesday after getting a sneak peak last week to read the 33-page bill.

Under the plan, rookie teacher pay would bump up from $31,750 a year to $32,200 a year. By 2020, new teachers would be paid $37,000 a year.

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