NOTECARD: ‘Education Week' brings budget debates to the forefront

Posted at 1:32 PM, Jan 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-27 15:32:40-05

Week Three at the Legislature is “Education Week,” when legislators dig into budget requests for public schools and Idaho’s colleges and universities. Talking points from the K-12 beat:

The Ybarra budget ...State superintendent Sherri Ybarra made her pitch to legislative budget-writers Thursday morning. Her top priority: boosting teacher salaries by $62 million. “This is a very important request, as it shows our commitment to invest in our human capital.” 

… and the battle lines. Only $4.2 million separate the Ybarra budget from Gov. Butch Otter’s K-12 request — a small gap in the context of $1.6 billion spending plans. But Ybarra and Otter sharply disagree on the teacher evaluation issue, and have different ideas about how to help school districts meet their financial needs. Legislators will have to decide whether they side with Ybarra or Otter. 

A big boost in STEM spending?Idaho’s STEM Action Center is in line for a big budget increase: 85 percent, to be exact. The bulk of the new money would go to fund Idaho’s fledgling computer science initiative: 

Meanwhile, STEM students converged on the Statehouse this week to show off their projects to legislators and Legislature-watchers:

‘It sounds great on paper, but …’Legislators heard a sobering message from the Idaho PTA: A court ruling banning student fees has had far-reaching implications. The ruling can affect a kindergarten teacher’s ability to furnish her classroom with Kleenex and basic supplies, equipment purchases for science labs and a marching band’s ability to afford uniforms and travel to performances. “It sounds great on paper, but in reality, (the ruling) has been disastrous,” said Maria Lorcher, the PTA's vice president of advocacy. 

‘She’s my party’s nominee.’ At the urging of the Republican National Committee, House Speaker Scott Bedke joined 140 GOP leaders and signed a letter endorsing Betsy DeVos. The Republicans delivered the letter Jan. 17, the same day President Trump’s controversial education secretary nominee faced a heated hearing in a Senate committee. “I need to do some homework, I guess,” said Bedke, “(but) she’s my party’s nominee.” 


Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger with Idaho Education News ( Idaho Education News is an independent news site focused on K-12 policy and politics, funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. Richert has worked in the Idaho news media since 1985, as a reporter, editor and columnist.