The Idaho Legislature has approved an educational policy bill that will serve as a springboard to a K-12 budget bill that should signal the end of the current legislative session.
Senate Bill 1199 passed Wednesday in both the Senate and the House. It is a bill that was intentionally crafted to address the concerns that arose over a K-12 budget bill that was rejected in the Senate last week.
On March 27, Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, chairman of the education committee, noted during debate over House Bill 323 (the bill that was rejected) that the legislation allocated $21 million for “excellence in education awards” to be paid to high-achieving teachers.
However, according to Goedde, the budget did not contain clear and sufficient criteria for how those awards would be attained. “This allows the bar to be set at ankle height, not a high bar,” Goedde stated.
Goedde also noted last week that the budget bill appropriated money for school technology “pilot projects,” but did not provide any specifics for how the money would be spent or how the results of the projects would be measured.
“In theory the superintendent (State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna) could send all of this money to one school, that is how vague this is,” Goedde told his fellow members of the Senate.
Senate Bill 1199 addresses both those concerns, stipulating that school districts must specify goals for teachers to meet before they can receive the “excellence in education awards,” while also requiring that the technology funds be distributed to multiple school districts across the state.
The new bill was co-sponsored by Luna, Goedde and Rep. Reed DeMourdant, R-Eagle, chairman of the House Education Committee. Luna was given credit by legislative leaders for his leadership role in crafting the new bill
The Senate bill passed with little debate in both the Senate and the House.
The appropriations committee of the Legislature, the Joint Finance-Appropriation Committee (JFAC) Wednesday approved funding the K-12 bill on a 16-4 vote. The total budget amount in the new bill, slightly more than $1 billion, is the same dollar amount as the rejected House Bill 323.
It is anticipated that the House and the Senate will vote on the budgetary bill Thursday that will provide funding for the policies in Senate Bill 1199. Legislative leaders have said that once the K-12 funding bill is taken care of, the Legislature will adjourn. One legislative leader said the session should be completed by noon.