The Idaho Budget Index examines appropriation bills on several fronts to add important context to lawmakers’ discussions as the spending bills are considered on the House and Senate floors. Among the issues we look at in drawing a conclusion about a budget:
Does the agency requesting these funds serve a proper role of government? Has wasteful or duplicative spending been identified within the agency, and if so, has that spending been eliminated or corrected? Does the budget examine existing spending to look for opportunities to contain spending, e.g., through a base reduction? If there is a maintenance budget, is that maintenance budget appropriate? Are the line items appropriate in type and size, and are they absolutely necessary for serving the public? Does the budget contemplate the addition of new employees or programs? Does the appropriation increase dependency on the federal government?
Our analysis is intended to provide lawmakers and their constituents with a frame of reference for conservative budgeting, by summarizing whether appropriation measures contain items that are sincerely objectionable or sincerely supportable.
Note: House Bill 226 was the first version of the appropriation of the Office of the State Board of Education. House Bill 297 is the revised appropriation bill since HB 226 was rejected by a 29-41 vote on March 7.
Everything stated below about HB 226 applies to the revised bill with one exception. HB 226 had a base adjustment with a reduction of $500,000 and that amount is increased in HB 297 to $1.25 million. However, it is important to note that this reduction of $750k,000 is the result of the rejection of Senate Bill 1029, the School Turnaround Act, which has a fiscal note of $750,000. So the rejection of SB 1029 allowed for this additional base reduction. None of the other issues that caused this appropriation to be rejected initially have changed; the balance of the appropriation is exactly the same.
The Office of the State Board of Education (OSBE) houses the professional staff in support of the State Board of Education. The staff evaluates programs, provides fiscal oversight, and manages centralized record keeping. OSBE is an oversight and governance body for Idaho’s public schools, community college, and public college and university system.
A major concern with this budget is the continuation of the recent trend of adding government employees. In Fiscal Year 2016, the OSBE had 25.75 full-time positions (FTPs). The Fiscal Year 2020 request would take the FTPs up to 35.25, about 10 positions or a 37 percent increase in staffing.
The Fiscal Year 2017 budget added three FTPs: A human resources specialist, a teacher effectiveness program manager, and a data systems analyst.
The Fiscal Year 2018 budget added two-and-a-half FTPs: A college career advisor program manager, a research communication specialist, and .5 FTP for a technical records specialist.
The Fiscal Year 2019 budget added/transferred three FTPs: three information system specialists were transferred from the Department of Labor to the OSBE.
The FY20 budget request adds an associate academic officer with the following position description: “to more effectively oversee the development of policy and implementation of student success initiatives (Legislative Budget Book, FY20, page 1-84). The description goes on, “Board goals and the recommendations approved by the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education, have led to the creation of new programs and initiatives that experienced bottlenecking at implementation and oversight due to overextended staff.”
Unfortunately, the OSBE has fallen into a pattern of adding initiatives and staff followed by more of each in the last several years. Perhaps it is time to reassess the effectiveness of these programs before continuing the process.
One final example is the $263,000 line item to conduct training on awarding eligible teachers the Master Education Premium. Teachers will be required to submit portfolios to qualify for the award and this $263,000 is described as an ongoing expenditure to train people to evaluate these portfolios.