The Legislature on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill that appropriates $1.5 billion to the state’s public schools. The bill cleared the House on a 54-15 vote, having cleared the Senate 31-4 the day before.
The measure now heads down one floor to the governor’s office, where he is expected to sign it.
The bill increases general fund spending for public schools by 4.6 percent, but features an overall increase in spending of less than half a percent. Among other things, the bill provides for employee pay increases, an increase in the minimum teacher salary, pay-for-performance spending and technology.
Critics continued to say the spending blueprint is insufficient.
“We set our priority. The very first thing we were going to do is replace the money in education” when the economy improved, House Minority Leader John Rusche of Lewiston, said. But Rusche said the education budget is not much different than it was in 2002. “This budget is not true to the promises that were made that at the first time we had excess money it would go to education.”
“The bill does not advance the ball down the field when it comes to restoring our economy,” Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, agreed.
But Rep. Brent Crane, a Republican from Nampa, noted that few other agencies would see the $54 million increase in spending that the bill proposed.
Rep. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, used the debate to chide lawmakers into considering other reforms in other budget areas, namely the Department of Health and Welfare. Entitlement spending continues to eat up large chunks of the state budget—money that could be directed to education, he said.