By Brian Murphy
The 20-member Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee is setting the largest portion of Idaho's state budget Monday morning – the K-12 public schools budget.
The state is allocating $1.223 billion of general funds to K-12 public education.
That is $15 million more than the budget-writers had been projecting for public schools, but $12 million less than Gov. Butch Otter had recommended in his budget.
The state allocated $1.214 billion on general funds to K-12 public education in fiscal year 2011.
The total budget — which includes federal and dedicated funds — is $1.561 billion, a reduction of $47 million from last year. The overall reduction comes from a drop in dedicated and federal monies.
"It’s considerably better than what we were anticipating and talking about before the Legislature came to town, but it’s still the third year in a row where schools are going to receive less money," said Idaho State Schools Superintendent Tom Luna said.
"The fact that we see rather than schools being cut $90, $100, $120 million like we discussed the first part of January, it’s a $47 million cut. It’s about a 2.5 percent cut that’s considerably less than what we were talking about just a couple months ago," Luna said.
"It’s moving us away from one-time money that we’ve been living on the past couple of years as part of our ongoing funding. I think it’s important that we’re making steps to get public education back on long-term funding and not just every year trying to rob this fund or that fund for one-time money to prop up the budget. This gets us closer to that."
The budget must pass the Senate and the House.
The 2012 budget includes changes from Senate Bills 1108 and 1184.
SB 1108 limits collective bargaining, eliminates the 99-percent protection for school districts and does away with the early retirement bonus for teachers.
SB 1184, which has not yet passed the House, reduces salary-based apportionment by 1.67 percent, which is reflected in the administrators' and teachers' portion of the budget.
The overall budget is divided into six individual budgets: administrators, teachers, operations, children's programs, facilities and deaf and blind services.
A look at the individual budgets
Division of Administrators: $74.8 million (passed 16-4)
Division of Teachers: $739.7 million (passed 14-6)
Division of Operations: $488.0 million (passed 14-6)
Division of Children's Programs: $233.5 million (passed 15-4)
Division of Facilities: $17.4 million (passed 13-6)
Deaf and Blind Services: $7.4 million (passed 15-4)
The administrators' portion of the budget passed 16-4 on a party-line vote with all four Democrats voting no.
The teachers' portion of the budget passed 14-6 with Republican Sens. Mitch Toryanski of Boise and Joyce Broadsword of Sagle voting with the Democrats in opposition.
In the operations portion of the budget, the Democrats offered a substitute motion that includes an additional $11 million with $10 million of that coming from the Public Schools Facilities Cooperative Fund. The additional $10 million would go to discretionary spending for districts.
The Democrats' motion failed 6-14 with Toryanski and Broadsword joining the Democrats in supporting it.
The operations budget includes technology. Both the Republican and Democrat motions include more than $13 million in technology based on SB 1184.
The original motion – without the additional $11 million — passed on a 14-6 vote, again with Toryanski and Broadsword voting alongside the Democrats.
In the children's programs portion of the budget, the Democrats offered a motion to pull $963,500 from the college entrance exam line item and move it to discretionary funding.
The motion failed 4-15 along party lines and the original motion — with the college entrance exam line item funding included — passed by a 15-4 margin.
Discretionary funding per support unit will be $19,626 in FY 2012, down from $21,795 in FY 2011. In FY 2009 that number was $25,696, said Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise.
"There are new demands on this discretionary money at the same time we're reducing it. Each way we short them, we really do force them into some very difficult situations," LeFavour said.
The Division of Facilities budget passed 13-6 with Toryanski and Rep. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, voting along with the Democrats. Opponents of the budget worried about moving $17.6 million in facilities funding to discretionary funding, fearing that school buildings in need of maintenance would not get those repairs.
The committee approved the Deaf and Blind Services budget on a 15-4 party-line vote.
The committee is working on "intent language" to accompany the public schools budget. The Democrats have proposed one additional piece of language, adding that the State Department of Education post a report on dual-credit enrollment and achievement in the state.
Dual credit is one of the aspects of SB 1184. It calls for the state to pay for dual-credit courses for students who have completed high school graduation requirements before their senior year.
The committee passed the "intent language" with the addition of the dual-credit report provision by a 14-5 vote.
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