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Public school budget shows commitment to children

The Aberdeen Times of Aberdeen, Idaho

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Guest Comment

The Joint Finance and Appropriation Committee (JFAC) finished its budget setting process last Friday. That signals that the end of legislative session may end in about 14 days. Two weeks from when JFAC finishes setting budgets is about how much time it takes to draft and move the last of the finance budgets through the House and Senate and have the governor sign them into law.

This session the education budget had the most focus of any time since I've been in the legislature. All legislators seemed to join together to find a pathway to restore funding that was removed because of the Great Recession. This resulting budget represents the best K-12 budget since 2009.

The overall K.-12 budget appropriates a $66.2 million (5.1%) increase over last year's budget. The administration had proposed a much more modest $27.5 million (2.9%) increase.

This budget includes:

$ 13.9 million in ongoing new funding for teacher pay. That includes a 1 percent ongoing increase to teacher base salary. Additionally, minimum teacher salaries increase from $31,000 to $31,750.

An additional $ 15.8 million in ongoing funding for teacher leadership awards.

$35 million to restore school district operating funding, which is a 12% increase over last year. These funds are mostly flexible, and can be used by school districts as they determine is needed.

Increasing the operations funding per classroom unit from $20,000 to $22,401.

$8 million for classroom technology.

$12.5 million for teacher professional development, which will include teacher training for gifted and talented student programs.

$5 million in one-time funding for books and curriculum materials. Curriculum is chosen at the local level, and these dollars can be used as the district needs for books and classroom materials.

$2.25 million in one-time spending for Wi-Fi installation.

$4.5 million to continue a statewide instructional management system. Districts may spend the money on mainte-' nance, operation and licensing of an instructional improvement system, known as ISEE Phase II. Of that, up to $2 million is required to be distributed to school districts and charter schools based on enrollment, with districts free to choose whatever system they want as long as it interfaces with the state system; they could also use the money for technology staffing costs or classroom technology. Up to $904,000 would be spent by the superintendent for digital content; and up to $1.6 million of the $4.5 million would be spent by the superintendent for "assessment items, professional development, training and school district support, in-house system maintenance, software licensing, and self-hosting support" for the current ISEE Phase II system.

The 2015 education budget represents a strong commitment to educate our children. During the Great Recession, education was the last agency to receive spending reductions and is clearly the first to receive the lion's share of revenue increases as our economy improves.

It is a pleasure to serve Bingham County citizens. Feel free -to contact me at

Sen. Steve Bair is a Republican representing District 31, which includes all of Bingham County. He serves as chairman of the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee and vice chairman of the Senate Resources and Environment Committee.

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Original Publication Date: March 12, 2014

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