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Education chairs ask JFAC to go along with Luna’s budget, including backfilling teacher pay

Education chairs ask JFAC to go along with Luna’s budget, including backfilling teacher pay

Dustin Hurst
February 17, 2012
Dustin Hurst
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February 17, 2012

In the final day of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) meetings with House and Senate committee chairs, leaders of the education panels asked budget writers to go along with Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s education budget.

House Education Committee chairman Bob Nonini, R-Post Falls, said though his panel hasn’t taken a formal advisory vote on the public schools budget, he believes most of the members support Luna’s budget, which includes $30 million in merit pay for teachers, $13 million in technological upgrades for classrooms and discretionary money for local districts to allot as they see fit.

Overall, Luna’s budget asks for $1.273 billion in state funding for fiscal year 2013, an increase of $57 million.

Nonini also told budget writers he supports backfilling teacher pay with $18 million next year. The pool of money used to pay teachers is slated to be cut next year due to education reforms Luna pushed in the 2011 legislative session. The teacher pay money would be siphoned to pay for the tech upgrades in classrooms.

Senate Education Committee chair John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, supports backfilling teacher pay, but also wants a long-term solution. “We realize that’s a one-year fix,” Goedde said of Luna’s budget request to stop the teacher pay cut.

That long-term fix could already be in the legislative process. JFAC co-chair Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, introduced a bill Wednesday in the Senate Finance Committee to end the teacher pool pay reductions and Goedde is one of the co-sponsors on the legislation. The bill is likely to receive a formal hearing in the Senate Education Committee within a week.

There has been some discussion of using surplus funding next year to fill education reserve accounts, but Goedde says that idea was the last priority on his committee’s list.

Budget writers are likely to set the schools budget in the first week of March.


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