The so-called “son of Senate Bill 1113,” the third part of the education reform package backed by Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, will likely be introduced in a Senate committee Friday. The legislation has been stalled in the Senate for three weeks, and the new version of the plan will scale back some of the changes, according to Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene.
The legislation would get rid of the changes to funding divisors that would have eliminated 770 teaching jobs. Local school districts could have to make the decision on whether to lay off teachers. Goedde said districts would have more flexibility with how to spend state education money, since lawmakers will relax the “use it or lose it” provision that requires districts to hire a certain number of teachers to receive all of their state funding.
Local schools will likely see less money for the next school year. Lawmakers have circulated several drafts of the public schools budget showing $36 million less in funding from the state and federal government. That drop in funding comes as Idaho schools across the state are expected to add 170 new classes full of students.
The new version of Senate Bill 1113 would still create a program for providing laptops or other mobile computing devices for high school students and teachers, though money would first be spent on teachers’ technology and training. Luna’s spokeswoman, Melissa McGrath, said that teachers could get laptops or other devices in the fall of 2013, with high schoolers starting to receive them the following year.
The new version could also abandon the proposed requirements for online classes. Goedde said the legislation would also unfreeze some of the salary grid for teachers that increases their pay as they receive more training and degrees.
When asked about why it’s taken three weeks to make changes, McGrath said that it’s the process for legislation. She also said most of the changes came from senators and that some of the tweaks reflect the days of public testimony taken on the reform plan.
Besides the yet-to-be-introduced legislation, lawmakers are still working on the public schools budget. Both the House and Senate education committees have held meetings to discuss the budget, though neither has come up with a firm consensus on what to tell the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC), which writes the budget. House committee chairman Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, said giving districts as much money in discretionary funding as possible is important.
Goedde said the increase in spending for technology would decrease discretionary spending for each classroom.
Budget writers on JFAC are expected to meet on Friday, though it’s unclear if they will set the budget for public schools then. They also need to set the state Medicaid budget, which could see a sizable drop in funding.