School’s chief seeks 8 percent budget boost from lawmakers

January 24, 2019

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The state’s schools chief said Thursday she needs an 8-percent budget increase to about $2 billion to educate the more than 300,000 students for fiscal year 2020.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra made the remarks to the Legislature’s budget-setting Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. Idaho Gov. Brad Little has recommended an increase for schools of about 6 percent.

Public schools are the largest part of the state budget, representing about 50 percent.

Idaho also receives about $264 million from the federal government to educate students that Ybarra said is mostly used for struggling students, English-language learners and poorer districts. With $100 million in other state money, Ybarra’s budget adds up to about $2.29 billion overall.

Ybarra’s request represents a $142 million increase in the state’s general fund from the previous fiscal year, with about 5 percent of that increase, or $86 million, to pay for estimated increases required by law.

Ybarra told lawmakers that one of the main concerns she hears is a shortage of teachers.

In her budget, the largest request is about $825 million for “career ladder” salaries. The state is now five years into the five-year program that lawmakers created to raise teacher salaries in hopes of stemming the tide of educators leaving for more lucrative jobs in neighboring states.

“Human capital is our most important asset,” Ybarra, a former teacher, told the committee. “The educator shortage is still acute in both Idaho and nationally.”

Another $413 million involves other aspects of teacher pay or benefits. That’s about $16 million more than Little is recommending.

Another significant budget item is a $39.5 million request involving technology. That’s $3 million more than last year. Little recommended no increase.

“It’s critical that our students have access to technology,” Ybarra said.

Lawmakers will decide on Ybarra’s budget request in the coming weeks.

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