2:03 p.m. — The Idaho House continued what is expected to be a marathon session around 1:45 p.m., taking up education appropriation bills.
House Republican leaders said they could meet until 10 p.m. or later tonight as they attempt to complete their work today and adjourn.
The first education bill — House Bill 323, an appropriation for the administrative division — passed the House 44-24.
Reps. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, and Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, spoke against the measure.
Next up was the teachers’ portion of the public education budget — House Bill 324.
Rep. Branden Durst, D-Boise, spoke against the bill, which would freeze teachers on the experience/pay grid for a year. He said the state should tap into its rainy day funds to help cover the shortfall.
“This budget is a real tragedy for the state of Idaho,” Durst said. “… It doesn’t say that we think teachers and the kids that they teach should be put first in line.”
Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, spoke against the bill.
"We could have done a better. We should have done better," Burgoyne said.
Rep. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, spoke in favor of the measure, saying that money did not translate into success in education.
"The U.S. as a nation spends more money than any nation in the world on education, yet we don’t rank anywhere near the top," Thayn said.
Reps. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, and Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, spoke in favor of the bill.
"I ask the opponents of this budget, 'What do they want to do next year if the economy continues to decrease?' Are they willing to raise taxes?" Labrador said.
Rep. James Ruchti, R-Pocatello, spoke against the measure.
"Why are we making an assumption that it is going to worsen, rather than spending some of the money for education and state services? If we have a problem next year, then we'll deal with it next year. It does not mean that we have to raise taxes," he said.
The bill passed 45-24.
2:26 p.m. -- The House approved House Bill 325, which deals with the operations side of the public schools budget, 44-24.
2:29 p.m. —- A bit of scheduling: The House Ways and Means Committee will meet at some point this afternoon and take up an election consolidation bill and, quite possibly, a transportation bill.
The House Republican leadership team will hold a press conference at 3:15 p.m.
5:07 p.m. — The public schools budget is up before the Senate now. There has been a lot of emotional debate on the bills.
During the debate on HB 324, which deals with teacher funding, Sen. Kate Kelly, D-Boise, explained her "no" vote: "I'm very sad to be part of first Legislature to cut funding for our public education system. We're doing something we’ve never done before. And we’re leaving our children behind. Our kids deserve the best."
Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, defended the budget. He said of all the state agencies that took cuts this year, public education "got the best."
"Education got the best. We gave them the best. This is not being driven by this Legislature. This is being driven by the economy," he said.