Ed chief proposes 7.5 percent increase for schools budget

KIMBERLEE KRUESI, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho’s public schools chief is seeking a 7.5 percent increase in education spending for 2016, revealing her own budget proposal for the first time since taking office.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra released her plan Wednesday. In it, Idaho’s public school funding would bump up nearly $110.4 million more than what lawmakers allocated this year.

“It is a budget that recognizes local control, while increasing opportunities for all students across our great state to achieve,” Ybarra said in a statement about her $1.58 billion budget.

Ybarra raised eyebrows earlier this year while giving an unusually short —17 minutes in total— budget presentation in front of lawmakers. With the education budget taking the largest chunk from the state’s general fund, lawmakers often spend the most amount of time finalizing it.

However, at the time, Ybarra countered that she had been asked to defend a budget penned by her predecessor Tom Luna, but moving forward would be different because she would be in control of writing her own budget plan.

Ybarra’s proposal now goes before Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, legislative leadership and other stakeholders for review. Come January, Otter will present his own education budget before the Idaho Legislature convenes for its 2016 session. With the two budgets in mind, it will be up to the lawmakers to hash out the final outline.

Two key features of Ybarra’s budget include more teacher pay and more operational funds. Ybarra wants $801 million for teacher salaries, which would boost pay for new teachers to $33,400 a year, but it’s still unclear how many teachers will receive raises because those decisions are made at a local school district level.

For operational funds, Ybarra requested roughly $25,696 per classroom to be used at their own discretion —a coveted fund that school districts have been requesting ever since it was slashed during the economic downturn.

Other noteworthy budget line items:

—$18 million for teacher leadership awards

—$3.9 million for content and curriculum

—$4.2 million for charter school facilities

Also tucked away in Ybarra’s budget request are 11 new line items, some of which include $100,000 for school library grants, $1.7 million for math coaches and an additional $1.75 million for academic and college mentors.

Besides paying for teacher salaries, the second-largest budget boost is adding an additional $7.1 million for transportation costs and $5 million for literary proficiency efforts.

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