Education Funding

Idaho Ed News

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.

Idaho Ed News

Ten years ago today, Jim Risch was a governor in a hurry.

Appointed in May 2006, Risch was halfway through a seven-month term when he convinced the Legislature to sign off on one of his top priorities.

Risch’s bill to slash property taxes for public schools by $260 million passed on Aug. 25, 2006, at the end of a one-day special legislative session.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

In August 2006, then-Gov. Jim Risch promised Idahoans $260 million in property tax relief.

He did deliver a tax cut to property owners.

But he did not deliver Idahoans an overall tax cut, according to an in-depth Idaho Education News analysis.

Instead, in 2015-16, Idahoans paid an additional $21.7 million for K-12 than they would have paid under the old tax structure — mostly because they now pay a higher sales tax. 

AP Photo

As students head back to classrooms across the state this week and next, Governor Butch Otter continues to push his five-year education plan. 

Idaho Ed News

It didn’t take long for former Gov. Jim Risch to remind me how I was earning a paycheck 10 years ago.

In August 2006, Risch was midway through a seven-month stint as governor, and brokering a deal to slash Idaho property taxes.

I was editorial page editor at the Idaho Statesman at the time — and our editorial board came out against his plan to eliminate $260 million in public school property tax levies, and use a $210 million sales tax increase to make up most of the difference.

Raja Sambasivan / Flickr Creative Commons

The Idaho State Board of Education is considering linking funding for higher education to student success.

The Idaho Statesman reports that the board is drafting a proposal for next year's Legislature that would weight college's needs based on educational outcomes instead of growth in enrollment or credit hours taught.

Idaho's public schools are on track to receive a 7.4 percent budget increase under a plan from the Legislature's budget-setting committee.

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved a 6.8 percent boost — about $100.3 million — for public schools on Monday morning. But some components of the K-12 budget plan are still working their way through the House and Senate, and committee members said they expect those bills will bring the total public education budget to a 7.4 percent increase over the previous year.

Idaho Education News

Last time around, it took lawsuits to force Idaho to rewrite its school funding formula.

Then it took a ton of new money to seal the deal. The spending increase was huge — and today, it would take more than $350 million to match it.

That was 1994.

Now, fast forward to 2016.

Herald Post / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho schools chief Sherri Ybarra is proposing a 7.5 percent hike in public school funding. The increase would go toward more money for teacher salaries and restoring funding to pre-recession levels for Idaho's 115 school districts to spend on paying insurance, utilities or other operations costs.

Ybarra presented her budget to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. She is requesting spending $1.5 billion for fiscal 2017, which is nearly $110 million more than this year's budget.

All four of Idaho's four-year public universities and colleges have eliminated degree programs, dissolved academic departments or reduced staff over the past year as part of a statewide effort to cut costs and prioritize college programs.

Boise State University restructured several of its academic departments, resulting in the removal of its College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs. Meanwhile, the University of Idaho discontinued 19 degree options. This included bachelor degrees in American Studies, Art Education and Medical Technology.

election day, voting
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Several school districts around Idaho are asking voters to approve levies and bonds Tuesday. That includes Horseshoe Bend, Notus, Parma and Marsing. Turning to local voters for money has become a fixture in Idaho in recent years as schools have sought to fill budget holes left by state cuts.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

President Barack Obama last week signed a $200 billion Medicare bill that reforms payments to physicians. Tucked inside that massive Medicare bill was a two-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools Act, a federal program that pays rural counties and school districts with a lot of non-taxable forest land.

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.

Idaho Capitol Dome
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The nearly $125 million plan to boost teacher pay in Idaho over the next five years won the governor's stamp of approval.

Under the new law, which Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed Thursday, rookie teacher pay would steadily increase to $37,000 a year by 2020.

Over time, more experienced teachers will be able to qualify for higher pay of roughly $42,000 to $50,000 a year.

Otter says passing the plan that had support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and all major stakeholders defined the 2015 legislative session as historic.

The Idaho Senate has approved a 7.4 percent increase to the state's public school budget, which includes funding for a sweeping five-year plan to boost teacher pay.

The chamber unanimously approved all seven parts of the Idaho's largest budget — totaling more than $1.4 billion of general funds — with no debate on Tuesday.

Republican Sen. Dean Cameron from Rupert says he'd never seen the chamber move through the education budget so swiftly.

capitol, JFAC
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Legislative budget writers are matching Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's request to restore public education money slashed during the economic downturn by adding roughly $101 million to the Idaho schools budget.

The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee approved increasing the schools budget by 7.4 percent on Friday. The proposal now needs to pass both chambers, but the legislation is expected to pass.

The proposal includes allotting $33.5 million to boost teacher pay, part of a five-year teacher pay increase plan lawmakers approved earlier this week.

Rookie teachers in Idaho will receive pay raises starting July 1 under a $125 million proposal headed to the governor's desk for his signature.

The Idaho Senate unanimously approved the measure Thursday, where senators offered only praise that the 30-page bill had survived both chambers after seeing prior proposals flounder this legislative session.

Education, school, classroom
IlmicrofonoOgglono / Flickr Creative Commons

The average teacher pay in Idaho dropped by more than $200 from 2012-13 to 2013-14 — a decrease that the state’s teachers’ union can’t explain.

On average, only two states pay their teachers less than Idaho.

A March 10 hearing on a teacher career ladder bill drew dozens of teachers to the Statehouse to testify. A new version of the bill passed the House Monday.

But meanwhile, pay appeared to increase for Idaho “instructional staff,” including counselors, principals and curriculum specialists.

The Basin School District in rural south-central Idaho has something most districts in the state don't: preschool. But now that's at risk because of federal funding cuts.

It's not alone: Sparsely populated school districts and counties covered in federal forest lands will have less money this year — $250 million less — because Congress allowed the Secure Rural Schools Act to expire.

Since Idaho doesn't have public preschool, schools that want to offer it have to find creative ways to pay for the program — state money isn't an option.

West Ada School District

Across the state, a high-stakes school election day looms on Tuesday.

How high are the stakes? There are at least $393.3 million in bond issues and school levies on the ballot next week.