Corrected: This story incorrectly stated the makeup of the Idaho legislature. The Senate has 28 Republicans and seven Democrats; the House has 57 Republicans and 13 Democrats.
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
In a tight budget year, Idaho’s legislative session ended with a 2.3 percent rise in funding for public schools for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The $987.1 million K-12 budget for fiscal 2006 fell below the $1.04 billion sought by Superintendent of Public Instruction Marilyn Howard and the $999 million recommended by Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, a Republican.
Still, the $22.4 million increase over the previous year underscored the governor’s commitment to public schools, said his spokesman, Michael Journee.
Some observers countered that the increase is barely enough to finance the growth in enrollments from people moving to Idaho, and a jump in the number of home schoolers joining online charter schools, which are funded with public money.
While federal No Child Left Behind Act mandates require all public school students to be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014, Idaho has pledged to reach the goal one year earlier. But Kathy Phelan, the president of the Idaho Education Association, said lawmakers have shown little or no commitment to follow through on that pledge by providing adequate funding.
“The governor wasn’t particularly interested in education this year,” Ms. Phelan said. “He did not provide the kind of leadership that we would have appreciated.”
Under the budget, funding for technology increased from $8.4 million for the current year to $9.5 million for fiscal 2006. The legislature added a clause in the budget that allows school districts to use a portion of that money for remedial instruction.
The Democratic-controlled legislature rejected a bill from a gubernatorial task force that would have increased starting teacher salaries from $27,500 to $35,000. Ms. Phelan pointed out that dental hygienists and nurses in the state start out at around $40,000 a year.
A bill that would have required teachers to undergo supervised classroom experience before being issued teaching certificates also died. At present, a teacher needs only to pass a computerized test before receiving a certificate.
Gov. Kempthorne signed into law a bill that makes it a misdemeanor for a parent to knowingly allow his or her child to become a habitual truant.