BOISE -- Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna unveiled his proposed budget for the coming school year on Thursday. If adopted, it would mean a 3 percent hike in funding for Idaho schools.
Luna made that sometimes impassioned budget pitch to the Legislature's Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee. "The most important issue of our day for our children is, will they or won't they be prepared when they leave high school for the world that awaits them," he said.
It's a $1.31 billion proposed budget. It would bump funding by 3 percent, while the governor recommended a 2 percent increase.
Of that, $150,000 would go to the School Safety Task Force. In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, Luna says that's money well-spent.
Also, money for teacher salaries would increase by 2.3 percent. However, $38 million (originally slated to be used for teacher merit pay, but freed up with a repeal of Luna's education reform in November) had to be spread throughout the rest of the school budget.
The minimum teacher salary would go up to $31,000. But with merit pay going away, some say teacher pay would decrease overall. Luna says because of that he won't stop pushing for some sort of pay-for-performance in the state. "If we don't do that, then we're going to continue down this road. Every year, the debate is whether we increase teacher pay by two or three percent. It's never going to increase at the rate it needs to," he said.
In the budget, more than $10 million would go to technology. Technology was a major component of that failed education reform plan. But Luna says technology spending has been in the schools budget all but once since 1995, and says repeal or not, you can't stop spending money on it. "This is an expense that is not going to go away. Because technology isn't a one-time capital expenditure anymore. This is an ongoing expense. There can't be any disruption in it," he said.
What would that technology money buy? Luna says schools would likely purchase new learning devices or upgrades to wireless infrastructure.
Among other things in the budget, Luna wants $3.7 million to develop core standards for public school students and $4.85 million for math and science teachers.
The budget is now in the hands of legislative budget writers.