Superintendent Luna Recommends 3% Increase for Public Schools
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna recommended a 3 percent, or $37.9 million, increase for Idaho's public schools when he presented to the Legislature's budget-setting committee on January 24.
Each year, Superintendent Luna provides his ideas and recommendations for the public schools budget for the upcoming fiscal year to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC). This year, Superintendent Luna also provided recommendations on how the Legislature should handle the remainder of the current fiscal year 2013 appropriation for Idaho schools.
Here is a summary of the Superintendent's recommendations as well as excerpts from his remarks to explain the budget proposal.
- Maintain current funding for fiscal year 2013
For the current fiscal year 2013, Superintendent Luna recommended the Legislature provide funding to school districts through the remainder of the fiscal year as originally appropriated last year. Superintendent Luna said: "Districts set budgets, signed contracts, and made commitments based on the original fiscal year 2013 appropriation. Teachers engaged in expected professional development to implement new tools in the classroom. It's important and necessary that districts receive the money they were expecting and that educators continue to receive the professional development that they planned for and need."
On January 25, Rep. Reed DeMordaunt and Sen. John Goedde, the chairmen of the House and Senate Education Committees, introduced legislation that would provide the necessary fixes to the fiscal year 2013 budget and ensure Idaho school districts and public charter schools receive exactly what was originally appropriated and budgeted for at the beginning of fiscal year 2013.
For fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1 and covers the 2013-14 school year, Superintendent Luna proposed a 3 percent, or $37.9 million, increase in general funds. He proposed this increase be used in the following ways:
- $10.4 million to restore a historic line item for classroom technology for school districts
Superintendent Luna said: "While technology has been a hotly debated topic over the past two years, one thing became clear: Teachers do utilize technology in the classroom. In the 21st Century, technology is not a silver bullet or an end-all, be-all. It's also not a one-time capital expenditure. It should be treated like a utility. Just as we wouldn't cut all the funding for transportation or all the funding districts use to pay the electric bill, I think it is critical that we continue to provide funding for districts to purchase and implement technology in the classroom. ... Since 1995, there's only been one year the state did not distribute at least $8.4 million to districts for classroom technology. ... I am requesting $10.4 million for classroom technology in Fiscal Year 2014. I understand the use of this funding may change in future years based on the work and recommendations of the Task Force for Improving Education in many areas of education reform, including classroom technology. But I believe it is critical this year for us to restore this dedicated line item for our schools and classrooms today so it is available now and in the future."
- $2.5 million in continued funding for District IT Staffing
Superintendent Luna said: "As we continue to implement and use more technology in our classrooms, we all know the critical role that IT Staff play at the district and school level. For that reason, I have left the line item for District IT Staffing at $2.5 million, the same as last year, and support this continued funding."
- $3.7 million to fund professional development as Idaho teachers implement higher academic standards
Superintendent Luna said: "One of the biggest improvements happening in Idaho's education system today is the fact that we have raised our academic standards in mathematics and English language arts. ... Idaho teachers will begin teaching these new, more rigorous standards next school year, and our students will be measured against these higher standards in the Spring of 2015. At the State Department of Education, we have been working since 2011 to familiarize teachers and school administrators with the new standards and offer professional development. ... Now, over the next two fiscal years, our plan is to provide more face-to-face and blended professional development opportunities to ensure every elementary teacher and every secondary teacher who teaches Math or English Language Arts in Idaho receives this necessary professional development. That is why I am requesting $3.7 million in additional funding for Idaho Core Standards Professional Development."
- $4.85 million to continue funding for more math and science teachers
Superintendent Luna said: "I am requesting ongoing support for math and science teachers. Two years ago, the Legislature provided this additional funding for Idaho's districts to hire more math and science teachers or to access highly effective math and science teachers or the Idaho Education Network. This was a commitment the State Board of Education and the Idaho Legislature made in 2007 when they approved new high school graduation requirements. I believe it is critical that we follow through on this commitment. Even though the legislation behind this funding has gone away, my budget proposal includes the $4.85 million in ongoing funding for math and science teachers."
- $7.7 million to follow through on the state's commitment to operate the statewide instructional management system, known as Schoolnet, and provide professional development opportunities for Idaho teachers on how to integrate this system in the classroom
Superintendent Luna said: "Another great example of how technology is changing the classroom is the instructional management system we have deployed across the state, known as Schoolnet. ... The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation stepped up in 2011 when we were still facing a recession and provided a $21 million grant to deploy Schoolnet to every classroom in Idaho. Schoolnet is a portal through which any classroom teacher can log in and see how each individual student is achieving. Teachers can also see how their entire classroom of students is achieving throughout the school year or on a daily basis. ... When the Albertson Foundation provided the grant funding in 2011, they did so based on a commitment that the state would provide matching funds during the 3-year grant cycle and then pick up the ongoing costs at the end of the grant. The state provided this commitment through the Students Come First legislation. This program remains strong in our schools today. Therefore, I have requested $4.9 million to continue our commitment to Schoolnet in Idaho's public schools next year. This line item provides funding to not only operate Schoolnet in Idaho's schools, but also provide maintenance, updates, the necessary technical support, and access to the robust digital content from Discovery Education. I also am requesting $3.2 million to continue providing professional development to Idaho's teachers and school administrators on how to effectively integrate all the tools available in Schoolnet into the school and classroom. While every teacher and administrator currently has access, the majority have not yet received professional development on how to use this yet on a daily basis. We also want to expand this access to parents and policymakers."
- 1.67% increase to restore the shift in funding for teacher salaries and raise the minimum teacher salary to $31,000
Superintendent Luna said: "My budget includes a 1.67% increase in base salaries. However, this does not address the issue of the minimum salary, which is not affected by the increase. Therefore, my budget recommends increasing the minimum salary by $500 to keep pace with this increase in salary-based apportionment. This will increase the minimum salary to $31,000."
- Maintaining the $38 million in teacher compensation
Superintendent Luna urged the Idaho Legislature to keep the $38 million put toward increasing teacher compensation last year in teacher compensation next year and in the future through a combination of the base salary, minimum salary and some form of differentiated compensation. Superintendent Luna said: "As I said before, this Legislature appropriated an unprecedented increase in overall teacher compensation last year – a more than 5% increase. Much of this increase came about because of the implementation of the state's pay-for-performance plan. Whether you agree or disagree with that plan, the fact is that every penny went to Idaho's teachers. In recent months, I know there has been much discussion over how to spend this funding going forward. As State Superintendent, I believe it must remain in compensation for Idaho's teachers – not only this year but in years going forward. Since I took office, we have worked to increase teacher pay. In years past, when the state saw a surplus in revenues, we worked to increase teacher pay: a 3% increase in base salaries in FY2008, and a 2% increase in FY2009. But even in the best of times, we never saw the 5.8% increase in total compensation we saw last year through a combination of the salary grid, minimum salary and a statewide differentiated compensation plan.
"I am convinced the only way we can continue to see this unprecedented amount of funding go toward teacher compensation is if the state develops a form of differentiated compensation for Idaho's educators – similar to what other professions have in place today. As you know, I have long supported not only paying Idaho's teachers better, but paying them differently – so we can recruit and retain the best and the brightest in the teaching profession for years to come. I understand this plan will look different than the plan that stakeholders crafted in 2009 and that the state implemented last year. I am comfortable with that. I am committed to working with the members of the Task Force for Improving Education and this Idaho Legislature so that together we can ensure every penny continues to go to Idaho's teachers and educators, not only this year but next year and in the future."
- $250,000 to continue the Dual Credit for Early Completers Program
Superintendent Luna said: "Since I took office in 2007, I have always advocated for the state to fund dual credits for high school students who have met certain benchmarks. We discussed this in 2007 and had a task force study this issue and present recommendations to the Legislature in 2009. One of the goals of the Education Alliance of Idaho, made up of all education stakeholders, was that by the year 2015, Idaho high school students would have the ability to earn 30 college credits before graduating from high school. In response, in 2011, the Idaho Legislature created and implemented the Dual Credit for Early Completers Program, allowing high school students who met their high school graduation requirements early to stay in high school and take up to 36 dual credits a year – paid for by the state. In the short time the Dual Credit for Early Completers Program was available, 32 students took advantage of this program. Students in neighboring states, like Washington and Utah, have been enjoying these benefits for several years. We must give Idaho students these same opportunities. That is why I am requesting $250,000 to restore and continue the Dual Credit for Early Completers Program in the coming year."
- $150,000 to reconvene the Safe Schools Task Force that will take a renewed look at school safety in Idaho
Superintendent Luna said: "The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is a stark reminder that no community – large or small – is immune to random acts of violence. ... In 2007, to gain a better understanding of school vulnerabilities and readiness to respond to crisis, this body appropriated funding for a statewide school safety and security assessment. This assessment included surveys, site visits, focus groups and community meetings. Based on the results of the assessment, the state worked closely with local school districts to develop recommendations and improve safety and security for Idaho's students. Based on the most recent tragedy, I think it is time that we re-convene the stakeholder group from 2007. A lot has changed. We know a lot more today, and we should incorporate new best practices. Therefore, we should take a renewed look at school safety. We never want to look back and ask ourselves, "Could we have done more, or should we have done more –" I am grateful to Governor Otter for asking retired Col. Jerry Russell to help us in this effort. You will see the line item for $150,000 for us to work with Col. Russell and assess school safety and security over the next several months. I expect this group to have a report or recommendations for this Legislature by next session."
More detailed information on Superintendent Luna's fiscal year 2014 Public Schools Budget request, including a copy of his full remarks to JFAC, is available here.