Hefty School Budget Increase Approved By Another State
In quick debate, one state's House passed seven budget increase bills for grades k-12.
In rapid-fire progression, the Idaho House passed seven budget increase K-12 bills. The speed with which the House moved these bills forward came in stark contrast to 2021 when the House voted down a teacher’s raise based on concerns surrounding school indoctrinations after lengthy debate and discussion. In total, this budget increase is going to take $2.1 billion of state tax dollars and allocate them for K-12 public schools.
The House ripped through giving these bills a thumbs up, taking less than a half-hour. The budget increase bills passed by the House and the $2.1 billion it represents make up almost the entire 11% Idaho Governor Brad Little requested to be put toward public education. Although there were a few big-ticket items up for debate, the House saw almost zero discussion over any bill.
One of the larger items on the docket included pay raises for teachers. Despite last year’s issues, this time there was no fight. The House approved $104 million of both state funds and federal COVID aid to be put in teachers’ coffers. Another large investment by the state will be directed toward school employee health insurance. Included in this is a one-time disbursement of $75.5 million that is geared to help schools move their teachers, support staff, and others over to the state insurance plan. Another $105 million will go to making employee benefits more worthwhile. Of note, the insurance benefits had previously been ok’d by the Idaho legislature and Gov. Little had already signed the bill into law. The passage of the budget increase basically now just funds the bills.
Last year’s teacher budget increase bill offered a much different discussion than what was seen this year. Last year, legislators from both sides were embroiled in a conversation that lasted well over an hour as numerous accusations were presented claiming educators were being forced to include critical race theory teachings within their coursework. The fight was contentious as half claimed it was in schools, while the other half said not one ounce of CRT is being taught in Idaho schools.
This battle had Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, saying at the time via Idaho Ed News, “Our teachers are great, and we need to fund our teachers, but we need to protect our teachers from being forced to teach this garbage of social justice, including critical race theory.” The battle ended in a 34-34 vote to strike down a budget increase for teachers. No such issue came to light this session.
In fact, not one Idaho lawmaker even offered a debate on any budget increase bill. More to the point, only one lawmaker questioned any budget increase bill that was being presented. This one question was presented by Rep. Scott. While going over the 7% school administrators proposed pay hike, she was curious to know if the same administrators were also in line for a $1,000 bonus. After she was told they were, she voted against the bill without debate. The bill still passed quite easily with a 51-17 vote.
The five other bills sent to the house passed even faster and more lopsided. The teacher’s budget increase bill won by a whopping 65-4 margin. Another key bill, HB 790, the children’s programs budget increase, looked to be in trouble earlier but was finally moved forward with a 40-29 vote.
Idaho’s school budget increase bills come shortly after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he was taking $800 million from his state’s new budget and using those funds to increase the state teacher’s minimum salary to at least $47,500 annually. DeSantis also pointed out that over the past three years, the state has already given out more than $2 billion to increase the compensation for teachers. Teachers weren’t the only salary winners as public and charter school teachers, as well as principals, also found themselves receiving bonuses.
Passing the House is just one step for the seven budget increase bills. They will next move to the Senate for their hopeful passing. After that, the bills will move to Gov. Little’s desk for either his signature or his veto.