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Local districts react to proposed $99 million in budget cuts for public education

Posted at 4:02 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 18:02:52-04

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Idaho's public education is facing $99 million in budget cuts for the upcoming school year--about a 5% budget reduction. The cuts, stemming from a drop in projected revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's a very stark view of what could happen in the next budget year that begins on July 1," said Idaho Education News Reporter, Kevin Richert. "A huge drop off in tax collections between income taxes and sales taxes. That's the crux of where the state gets its money for education."

For school districts in the Magic Valley and across the state, it means freezing teacher salaries on the state's career ladder, and cutting down on a variety of other budget categories.

"Your teaching staff would make the same that they made this year, so that encompasses or takes care of about half of the five percent," explained Twin Falls School District Superintendent, Dr. Brady Dickinson. "They're looking at reducing some of the areas in terms of professional development, classroom technology, content and curriculum and also in our discretionary funding."

The Jerome School District is still working on their final budget numbers, but say they're concerned about being able to break even.

"I would anticipate being in a deficit budget, and we'll have to make up for that deficit with some of our carryover funds," said Superintendent Dale Layne.

Those carryover funds, also called rainy day funds, vary from district to district. They're what the districts have to fall back on if there are any deficits in the school's budget.

The good news is, Idaho Public Schools will recieve $43 million in federal funding from the CARES act, something the districts say will help balance their budgets for the upcoming year.

"It's going to really help school districts stay whole across the state, because there are some federal dollars that will come in to help maintain operations to make sure we're readying employees to address any of the concerns created by COVID-19 outbreaks within our district," said Dickinson.

Dickinson explains title districts, meaning districts with a higher number of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch, will recieve more of that federal funding.

For both districts, the possibility of even more budget cuts is in the back of their minds, but they say they'll do their best to prepare in the face of uncertainty.

"With the economy in a position where no one really knows what's going to happen down the road, we don't know what's going to happen with the virus, of course, we're hoping there are no additional cuts, but also as we plan for next year that's also something we're going to have to keep in mind," said Layne.

Our media partners, Idaho Education News, report State Department of Education finance officials will offer new guidance this week to local school leaders who are preparing to implement $99 million in statewide K-12 budget cuts.

The SDE will offer a 90-minute webinar at 2 p.m. Mountain Standard Time Thursday. The webinar will be an expansion of the regular weekly webinars that schools chief Sherri Ybarra and her staff have used to provide local school administrators with updates and resources throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday’s webinar will also include a remote installment of the traditional post-legislative roadshow.

The webinar will include:

  • 2021 budget guidance.
  • An overview of 2020’s major education bills.
  • An update on new changes and data requirements set to hit the books July 1.

The webinar will also include an opportunity for local school leaders to ask SDE officials questions, spokeswoman Kris Rodine said.

For more on the webinar, click here.