In an unusual meeting Wednesday morning, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill to end the teacher pay reductions imposed by reforms pushed last year by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.
The bill, brought by Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, one of Luna’s chief foes in the reform battle last year, also has the backing of Senate Education Committee chair John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene.
Luna’s reforms cut the pool of money through which teachers are paid in order to fund technological upgrades for classrooms, including laptops for all high school students.
Cameron’s bill would end that and force the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee to find ways to fund Luna’s tech upgrades and merit pay plans—also a part of reforms—rather than taking the money from teacher salaries.
The bill would allow teacher pay to be cut this year, but end the reductions in the future.
That doesn’t mean, however, that teachers will see less in their paychecks next school year. Senators including Cameron are looking at backfilling teacher pay this year with extra funds. The governor’s budget calls for pay levels to be cut, but one-time bonuses are sent to teachers if revenues exceed expectations. Otter’s budget chief has called the bonuses “surplus eliminators.”
Cameron introduced the bill before the Senate Finance Committee because he and co-sponsors couldn’t get it ready before last Friday’s deadline to introduce legislation in non-privileged committees. The Senate Finance Committee typically holds joint meetings with its House counterpart.