Friday, March 2, 2012

Supt. Luna's Letter on Senate Bill 1331

Yesterday, the Senate voted unanimously to adopt Senate Bill 1331; the bill now heads to the House for consideration. SB 1331 removes shifts in salary-based apportionment scheduled for the next five years by last year's reform legislation. If the Legislature believes that funding will be available to make this possible, it is good news for everyone.

Idaho’s Students Come First reforms built an education system that educates more students at a higher level with limited resources. That meant spending the money the state currently has differently. In tough economic times, this required adjustments to salary-based apportionment. However, Superintendent Luna committed to offsetting those adjustments as soon as revenues were available. An improving economy allowed him to do just that in the FY 2013 budget request he made earlier this year, where he proposed offsetting the adjustment scheduled for the coming year. Senate Bill 1331 would permanently offset the adjustments in salary-based apportionment now and in future years.

The Idaho School Boards Association and Idaho Association of School Administrators testified in support of Senate Bill 1331. The Idaho Education Association testified in support of Senate Bill 1331, but said it still opposes the Students Come First laws and will fight for the laws to be repealed through a referendum in November 2012.

The following is the letter Superintendent Luna sent to members of the Senate Education Committee earlier this week regarding Senate Bill 1331:

February 27, 2012

Dear Members of Senate Education Committee,

Thank you for the opportunity to write to you regarding Senate Bill 1331. Through Students Come First, we reformed Idaho’s education system to spend the money we currently have differently to ensure every student is prepared to graduate from high school and go on to postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.

Last year, we created a consistent funding stream for Idaho’s public schools to achieve the state’s education reform goals of expanding equal access and opportunity for every student, ensuring a highly effective teacher in every classroom, and creating transparent accountability at all levels in education. During the state’s tough economic time, this required adjustments in salary-based apportionment. However, the Governor and I said numerous times that education was the last dollar cut, and it will be the first dollar restored, as soon as the economy improved.

Since revenues are now available, I proposed a budget for Idaho’s public schools in Fiscal Year 2013 that follows through on the commitment made last year by offsetting the shift in salary-based apportionment.

This means there would be no reductions made to base salaries for teachers, administrators or classified staff in the upcoming year. No money would be shifted from salaries to pay for reforms. Senate Bill 1331 would make that proposal permanent now and in the future.

The Idaho Legislature is responsible for setting policy and determining the budget appropriations every year. If this Legislature now is confident the funding is available, not only in fiscal year 2013 but also in years going forward, this is good news. This means our reform efforts can move forward with full funding and support this year as I have proposed in my budget request, as well as in future years.

Just as we said last year, we need an education system that can educate more students at a higher level with limited resources. We are accomplishing that today under the current law. If this Legislature passes Senate Bill 1331, we still will accomplish this goal now and in the future.

The more people learn about Students Come First, the more they want to get behind it and make these laws work. I appreciate the support and the hard work of this Committee and the Legislature as you work to make education reform successful for all students in all schools now and in the future.


Tom Luna
Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction

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