Gov. Butch Otter called Monday for infusing Idaho’s public education reforms with another $104 million in 2017-18, but wants to see problems with teacher evaluations fixed in the next year.
“I’m not going another year without the accountability part done,” Otter told reporters following his State of the State address Monday. “It was anticipated by now that we would have that done.”
Lawmakers poured $75 million into raising teacher salaries in the past two years and plan to add another $58 million this year. Teacher evaluations are a key to determining how well teachers are performing, a necessary part of the pay-for-performance plan that will be fully implemented in 2019-20.
Even as Otter chastised what he sees as a troubled accountability plan, he proposed putting $2.5 million into administrator training to ensure that evaluations accurately measure teacher performance.
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Overall, Otter proposed a $1.68 billion public schools budget, up 6.4 percent from this year. He also proposed a 2.16 percent increase in higher education to $285.5 million. In addition, he recommended $35 million for campus building projects including the materials science center at Boise State University.
Boise State announced its proposed materials science building in October 2015, with a $25 million gift from the Micron Foundation. The $10 million from unallocated funds in Idaho’s budget would raise the total to date to about $35 million. Cost for the building, originally estimated at $50 million, may be higher because of rising construction costs. Boise State has raised another $1 million in commitments.
The Center for Materials Research, to be located next to BSU’s engineering building at University Drive and Manitou Avenue, will house a 250-seat lecture hall, a pair of 85-seat classrooms and research space for professors and students in materials science and other sciences.
Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce said Otter’s plan could lead to more graduates in materials science.
“We appreciate the governor’s collaborative approach with our universities and colleges to ensure that our state’s booming industries have the talented workforce needed to drive our economy forward,” said Bill Connors, president and CEO of the chamber.
Otter’s State of the State address was laced with references to improving education. “Ultimately, my education funding proposals are about doing the right thing for the next generation of Idahoans” and preparing them for a global economy, he said.
Among his proposals for K-12:
▪ $10 million for counselors to encourage students to get an education after high school.
▪ $7 million for students to spend getting college credits in high school through dual-credit programs or advanced placement tests.
▪ $28 million for more technology in Idaho schools, part of a plan that would eventually lead to $60 million a year for schools to pay to update their own classroom technology.
The big-ticket item in the reform package created in 2013 was a significant increase in teacher pay in hopes of attracting and retaining teachers. The so-called career ladder hit a bump after an audit commissioned by the Idaho State Department of Education showed that all but 1 percent of a sample of teacher job evaluations was not completed thoroughly. Pay raises under the plan will be determined by teacher evaluations.
Without solid evaluations and clear accountability, the teacher pay and career plan could implode because lawmakers won’t have confidence that teachers are being evaluated properly, House Speaker Scott Bedke told the Statesman.
School districts have complained bitterly about the department audit, which they say was flawed and presented an inaccurate and unfair picture of the state of their teacher evaluations.