Superintendent Luna trims proposal for Idaho teacher raises

The $23 million figure is still $23 million more than the governor seeks.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESSJanuary 24, 2014 

State schools chief Tom Luna offered the reduction to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. He initially sought an additional $42 million for teacher pay for fiscal year 2015, starting in July.

Luna hopes his latest proposal meets with lawmaker appeal by finding middle ground with Gov. Butch Otter.

Luna contends that his revised plan would help Idaho as his agency embarks on an ambitious redesign of how educators are compensated. The redesign could cost $253 million while abandoning the existing system of paying teachers based on their duration of service.

The strategy could take about six years to implement.

“I understand that more work needs to be done,” Luna told lawmakers. “This is a first step we can take, it’s a necessary step we can take.”

Luna’s plan for the money foresees distributing $16 million in leadership award bonuses and another $7 million as part of a 1 percent hike in base pay.

By contrast, Otter’s budget priorities — outlined during his State of the State speech — didn’t include a teacher pay hike. Instead, he focused on restoring so-called discretionary funding that Idaho’s 115 school districts can spend on paying insurance, utilities or other operations costs.

Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said the governor and his education aides will review the latest proposal from Luna to determine whether it merits further consideration.

Budget writers responsible for prioritizing state spending now must strike a balance between the resources that Otter says Idaho has and what Luna said is necessary in crafting an acceptable plan for schools.

Many legislators have already said that they favor raising pay for 17,000 state workers — and that they aim to give the same treatment to teachers.

“If I have my way, yeah,” said state Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, who serves as co-chairman of the budget committee.

In all, Luna is now recommending a 5.1 percent increase that would bring public education funding to $1.37 billion in the 2015 budget. That compares to about $1.31 billion during the current year.

Otter, meanwhile, has recommended a more austere 2.9 percent boost, to about $1.34 billion.

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