Education spending in Idaho consumes more than 40 percent of the total state budget. The recommendations forwarded by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) to the House and Senate are seldom changed so what comes out of that committee is generally regarded as the K-12 education budget for the coming fiscal year.
JFAC this week approved a $1.6 billion budget, but not without some members of the committee disagreeing on how the money should be spent.
Sens. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, Steven Thayn R- Emmett, Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, and Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, stated their support for more local discretion of how education tax dollars are spent.
Those five attempted to pass such a recommendation, but lost on a 15-5 vote.
What prevailed in JFAC was limiting discretionary spending to 1.5 percent instead of the 5.8 percent asked for in the failed 15-5. Also approved by the committee was unfreezing the two remaining years on the salary grid. The "two remaining years" refers to the top two levels of the highest paid teachers on the Department of Education minimum salary for teachers.
Following is a breakdown of the JFAC recommendations:
Administrators division: Provides funding to support salaries and benefits of administrators including (superintendents, assistant superintendents, principals, assistant principals and program directors. Motion passed to decrease these general funds by 1.1 percent
Teachers division: Provides funding support for teachers and teacher support staff salaries and benefits and other programs specific to certified instructors. This allocation increased general funds by 2.7 percent above the current fiscal year spending.
Operations division: This division includes pupil transportation, salaries and benefits for classified staff and discretionary funds that can be used for any educational, educational support services or general operations. JFAC approved a general fund increase of 2.6 percent for fiscal year 2014.
Children's Program division: Programs provide direct educational or material benefits to children, where funding does not primarily go to paying certified teachers and administrators. It also includes programs that primarily and specifically provide funding for the separate instruction of identified subgroups of children outside the normal classroom of an Idaho public school. This budget category received a 28.5 percent increase for the coming fiscal year.
Facilities division: Funding provided from Idaho Lottery proceeds for public school facility construction and repair costs, and funding to support of the Bond Levy Equalization Program. JFAC approved an allocation of $23.9 million, of which $6.5 will be sent to school districts and charter schools for facility maintenance needs.
Idaho Bureau of Educational Services for the Deaf and Blind: Assist school districts and state agencies in providing accessibility, quality and equity to students in the state with sensory impairments through a continuum of service and placement options. Services may include operation of a school for the deaf and the blind that shall provide residential and day campus programs. The bureau may also operate an outreach program intended to provide services to students outside the campus area, as well as early intervention and family consultation. Both proposals resulted in a 2 percent increase over fiscal year 2013 for a total of $7.98 million.