Brent Hill, Senate Pro Tem, is bullish on how he thinks education will fare when the Legislature gets back to work Jan. 12.
“There is a good chance that the legislature will completely restore the funding for public schools and approve the largest public education budget in Idaho’s history.” wrote State Sen Brent Hill, R-Rexberg, on his web page Friday afternoon.
Idaho schools lost $82.5 million a year through the recession as lawmakers cut funding to balance the budget. Funding reductions led to furloughs for some educators, four-day weeks at some school districts and passage of many levies to pay for school operations across the state.
Lawmakers restored $35 million of those cuts last session, which leaves about $48 million.
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But Hill thinks lawmakers may go higher than that and the funding increase could address some of the recommendations from the governor's task force to improve schools. One recommendation that is expected to make its way to the legislature this year is increasing salaries for teachers
Over time the proposed career ladder could boost beginning teacher salaries from $31,700 to as much as $40,000. Top salaries could go as high as $58,000.
Gov. Butch Otter has expressed support for public education and was criticized during the gubernatorial campaign for not doing enough to help public schools and lawmakers are hearing from the folks back home that education needs more support, Hill told the Idaho Statesman. Some lawmakers are also indicating that funding schools should take priority over further tax cuts, Hill said.
Read Hill’s comments here.