BOISE (AP) — Teachers would be paid more money and lost operating funds would be restored to schools under a preliminary list of recommendations by the governor’s new Task Force for Improving Education.
One proposal would raise minimum teacher salaries from $31,000 to $40,000 a year statewide, while another seeks to restore $82.5 million in operational revenue that school districts have lost since 2008, The Idaho Statesman reported Wednesday.
The task force was created eight months ago to bring lawmakers, educators, parents and businesses together after a political fight that led to the defeat of the Students Come First laws in a referendum this past November.
The new recommendations aren’t final. Task force members will meet Friday for further discussion.
The 31-member task force hopes the measures will lead to 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds in the state completing some form of post-secondary education. Only about 35 percent are currently meeting that benchmark.
Task force members are trying to create the best public education system possible for Idaho, not one “that fell within a certain dollar amount,” said Penni Cyr, Idaho Education Association president.
No single proposal is going to solve the education problems, said Richard Westerberg, task force chairman. But taken together, he said, the proposals “will move the needle of education forward in a significant way.”
School districts saw state funding fall during the recession, with $82.5 million in operational revenue — money used to pay electrical bills and other daily expenses — pulled back since 2008. Districts tried to make up the difference with extra levy and bond tax dollars from voters, but the results were mixed.
Linda Clark, Meridian School District superintendent and a member of the task force, said her district is on the verge of emptying its reserve account and could face education reductions in 2014-15 without help from the state.
The task force recommendations would seek to restore those lost state funds over five years.
Another would boost teacher salaries to aid recruitment of good teachers. It would push some salaries into $60,000 range, depending on ability and student performance.
Final recommendations from the task force will have to be embraced by the public to succeed, said Mike Lanza, a task force member and parent who organized Idaho Parents and Teachers Together, which helped defeat the Students Come First legislation.
“We have to get the buy-in,” Lanza said.