BOISE -- The Idaho Senate has signed off on a revised $1.3 billion public schools budget, paving the way for a final vote in the House.

The spending bill that's kept lawmakers in Boise for an extra week cleared the Senate Thursday on a 29-5 vote.

The new budget is nearly identical to the one that died on the Senate floor last week. It includes $3 million for pilot technology programs, $21 million for teacher merit pay, and raises teacher starting salaries to $31,000.

A companion measure featuring minor changes including conditions on merit pay passed both chambers Wednesday.

Rupert Sen. Dean Cameron said the budget isn't perfect, but has support from the teachers union, school boards and Department of Education.

The bill is the last big hurdle before the Legislature adjourns.

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