Luna: Paying teachers is a higher priority than building up reserve funds (video)

Luna: Paying teachers is a higher priority than building up reserve funds (video)

by
Dustin Hurst
January 26, 2012
Dustin Hurst
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January 26, 2012

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna is asking for a 4.7 percent hike in the public schools budget, including money to fund enrollment growth, more than $30 million in merit pay and $13 million in tech products for classrooms.

If Luna gets his way, the public schools state fund appropriation will be $1.273 billion, a jump of $57 million compared to this year’s budget.

There could also be stark revisions to Gov. Butch Otter’s budget if Luna’s budget is accepted by lawmakers. The superintendent is calling for Otter, instead of filling the public school reserve fund, to backfill $19 million in teacher pay cuts created by his 2011 education reform package.

Luna told lawmakers that reserves are important, but properly paying teachers is a higher priority.

Otter requested $30 million to fill the rainy day accounts, but Luna is asking that the backfilling be put first and saving put on the backburner. If lawmakers follow through on the request, teachers will see an overall 5 percent jump in pay when merit pay is enacted. Luna projects 85 percent of teachers will receive a bonus under his plan.

The teacher grid, the schedule lining out how teachers add more to their base salary, would also be fully-funded next year. The grid assesses teachers on classroom experience and college credits taken; that is, the more educators have of each, the more they earn.

The money for technological upgrades would go to several areas. Teachers and administrators would receive $2.5 million to buy laptops. Another $9 million would go to buy tech toys, including digital cameras, iPads, iPods and other electronic learning aids.

The 2013 budget includes $4.8 million in teacher development as teachers learn how to best integrate tech items into classroom learning.  Another $4 million would cover enrollment growth, down from the $12 million Luna projected in September.

The request also asks for $842,000 to pay for dual-enrollment classes for high school students who finish secondary education early and want to take college courses their senior year.

See Luna explain his initiatives to reporters below:

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