A $1.5 billion spending package for the state’s public schools has cleared the Senate on a 31-4 vote. The bill increases general fund spending for public schools by 4.6 percent. Making up for a decline in federal and other funds, the bill would increase spending for public schools in 2013 by less than half a percent. The bill provides for school employee pay increases, including an increase in the minimum teacher salary from $29,655 to $30,500, or about 3 percent. The measure also includes more money for increased student enrollment, and for the pay-for-performance plan and new school technology that was included in last year’s education reforms.
But Boise Democrat Sen. Nicole LeFavour blasted the measure as insufficient, given improving state revenue. “It’s hard not to appreciate that this year’s budget is better than last year’s budget. But this year’s budget could be a lot better than last year’s budget,” LeFavour said. “I believe we have money on the table that we are not using to help avert what has been a crisis for our schools.”
Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, disputed LeFavour’s accounting. “It is a dramatically improved budget from the previous year. I do not believe we are continually hurting our public schools. Through proper management … our schools have done well. They continue to put out good products, still continue to help our kids.”
The measure now goes to the House.
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