Education

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.

Contractors have received $29.7 million under the voided Idaho Education Network contract.

Should the state try to get this money back?

It’s one of the many legal issues surrounding the defunct statewide broadband system. And it’s one many state officials don’t want to talk about.

U.S. Dept. of Education / Flickr Creative Commons

One of the Idaho Legislature's most anticipated proposals to boost teacher pay has finally been revealed just nine days before lawmakers begin setting the state's public education budget.

The Idaho House Education Committee listened to the plan Friday but did not vote on any legislation.

Under the plan, beginning teacher pay would bump up from $31,750 to $33,000 per year school starting in fiscal year 2016 and eventually increase to $37,000 over five years.

bullying
Diego Grez / Wikimedia

A bipartisan bill in the Idaho Legislature would train teachers to deal with bullying and require them to intervene when they see it happen.

Boise Democratic Rep. Ilana Rubel said it’s not an issue of niceness. She said it’s an educational issue -- because bullying makes kids less engaged with school.

“And as news spread of this bill, I was contacted by hundreds of parents across the state who felt desperately that we needed to act in this regard,” Rubel said.
 

Classroom
Malate269 / Wikimedia Commons

A legislative panel is backing a bill that would let Idaho's Education Department contract with private companies for education programs, and then only pay once the programs are shown to work.

The House Education Committee unanimously approved the plan, dubbed "Pay for Success," on Monday.

Sen. Bob Nonini from Coeur d'Alene sponsored the legislation. He says Idaho would not have to pay any money unless an independent evaluator decides the educational pilot program has met its goals under the contract.

Usually, the state funds pilot programs with its own money.

Idaho parents who don’t want their child to have to pass the state’s standardized test for graduation would be able to opt-out under a bill in the state Senate.

The head of Idaho's Senate Education Committee says a highly anticipated plan to boost teacher pay will be revealed soon.

Republican Sen. Dean Mortimer of Idaho Falls told the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee Wednesday that he believes the bill is coming together but stakeholders are still figuring out key details.

Mortimer did not specify what have been the sources of contention. Mortimer also shied away from telling budget writers how much the state's education budget should increase on behalf of his committee.

Enokson / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho schools are scrambling to keep the Internet on for the rest of the school year. Lawmakers say the Idaho Education Network (IEN) will go offline as early as Sunday and districts need to make deals with local providers, or lose their internet connections.

The statewide program to get broadband in schools has been in jeopardy since a judge declared the state’s contract with internet service providers illegal  last November.

Mike Crapo
U.S. Senate

A bill to renew federal subsidies to timber counties has been filed in the Senate.

The Secure Rural Schools program made up for federal timber revenues that declined as environmental protections reduced national forest logging, but it expired last year. Efforts to renew it failed in the lame-duck session of Congress.

The latest version was filed Thursday by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden and Idaho Republican Mike Crapo.

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