Thursday, January 23, 2014

Superintendent Luna's Remarks to the Legislature's Budget Committee

The following are Superintendent Luna’s prepared remarks for the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) on Thursday, January 23. These remarks are subject to change upon delivery.

First, I would like to start by discussing the State Department of Education budget.

For fiscal year 2015, I have requested approximately $34 million, which is a 5.2% decrease from the current fiscal year. This is primarily due to the reduction in request for one-time spending authority related to the Albertson Foundation grant.

This budget request does include, however,
·    a one-time request to replace non-general fund computer items, and
·    As requested by DFM in September, a 1% CEC.

As with every other year, I understand CEC will be ultimately determined by this Legislature. However, I am encouraged by the discussions this Legislature has already had to provide CEC that will be based on merit.

I think it’s critical for agency directors to have flexibility over how this funding is spent.

So, let me walk you through a few of the details of this request.

First, let me talk to you about the FTP count at the Department and how it is changing under this budget request.

Specifically, we have requested 142 FTP, which is equal to the same number we have this year.

The only difference is this year, 5 are one-time related to the grant from the Albertson Foundation, and 2 are ongoing requests for a Financial Specialist and a Project Manager.

Next year, we will no longer need the 5 one-time positions. Instead, we will be requesting funding for 2 ongoing positions to manage the state’s instructional management system going forward.

Second, last year, I made you aware of a challenge the Department would be facing in Fiscal Year 2015 regarding our fingerprinting and criminal history check program.

Currently, we collect $40 from teachers to process a fingerprint card for the criminal history check required in Idaho Code.

This is when teachers first become licensed in Idaho or change school districts.

However, in 2011, Idaho State Police ran a rule approved by the Legislature to raise their fingerprinting fees.

So for the past two years, we used a free-fund balance to pay for this increase without passing the increase along to teachers or school districts, or without asking this Legislature for a general fund appropriation.

To address this imbalance and provide a long-term solution, the Department has worked closely with stakeholder groups to craft legislation that will allow the Department to adjust costs of criminal history checks if at any time the Idaho State Police increases their cost for this process.

This change will be consistent with language other state agencies currently have in place.

I am making you aware of this because if this bill does not pass, then our only other option is a general fund appropriation for Fiscal Year 2015 and going forward.

Third, we continue to make progress with our statewide longitudinal data system, known as ISEE.

Transitioning to ISEE has been a heavy lift for our schools, our districts and us at the Department. But I can tell you ISEE uploads are becoming less of an issue.

Over time, districts have established strategies, business processes and provided data entry training to their staff, which have resulted in fewer errors and warnings.

More importantly, this has reduced the amount of time spent collecting data elements each month.

Now, we know going forward this will continue to be a challenge as school districts change student information systems or hire a new business manager. But overall, things are improving and heading in the right direction.

One reason is the training the state has provided and the assistance the ISEE Regional Technical Coordinators provide. 

Districts are getting hands-on technical assistance in the field, which has helped solve problems effectively and efficiently.

We also have a continued dialogue with the Idaho Association of School Business Officials to identify challenges and address them immediately.

Another success we have had is the addition of the new Five File Format Upload.

In total, districts upload 12 files once a month to the state.

Through the Five File Upload, districts have the option to upload data in 5 of these files – some of the most critical data needed to drive instruction in the classroom – as often as they want, every night if they choose to.

The data automatically populates the state’s instructional management system, known as Schoolnet, and is readily available for districts to use.

This process can also help the teacher or local school to identify errors in their data more immediately, prior to the district’s monthly upload.

At the end of December, 36 out of the 42 districts piloting Schoolnet were successfully using the Five File uploads.

Finally, I want to address the amount of funding we have available for statewide testing. I know this is a question I have received several times, so I would like to address it here.

As you know from the Department budget, we spend about $5.7 million a year on our statewide standardized test, which has been the ISAT.

About 30% of this funding comes from state general funds, and 70% comes from federal funding. This has always been the case.

Going forward, as we transition to the Smarter Balanced assessment to replace the ISAT, I do not anticipate requesting additional funds to administer our statewide test this year.

We have been analyzing cost estimates for more than a year. Every estimate has shown that the cost of administering the Smarter Balanced assessment at the end of the year in Idaho should be similar to the cost of administering the ISAT.

I am excited about this opportunity, and I know educators and parents are excited about it, too.

We are finally moving away from a stagnant, multiple-choice-only test to a test that is able to better measure our students and what they truly know and are able to do – and we are able to do so in a cost-effective way.

The new test will include multiple choice questions as well as open-ended questions where students have to show their work, write essays and more. 

In addition, we cannot forget that, through our work with Smarter Balanced, we are able to provide teachers with more than just a year-end assessment.

Idaho teachers are working to develop assessment tools that can be used in the classroom throughout the school year to monitor students’ progress and provide instant feedback in the classroom.

This is something that teachers have wanted for years, but the ISAT was never able to deliver. Now we can.

Of course, as with any test, the full cost is determined by the grades we test and the assessment tools we provide to teachers in the classroom.

By giving teachers all the tools to use in the classroom, we know based on the current estimates that the total cost of the test could increase by $500,000 in future years.

However, we are looking at cost savings in the system to reduce any request we may need to make of you in the future.

I will discuss more of this in the Public Schools Budget.

Now, I will move on to the Public Schools budget. I understand the public schools budget includes the Idaho Educational Services for the Deaf and the Blind budget. However, I know Brian Darcy will be here tomorrow to present on the details of that budget.

So I will focus these remarks on the public schools budget only.

Each year, I stand before this committee and the germane committees and discuss new line items or requests in funding we know will assist Idaho’s students and public schools.

These become a part of ongoing funding, and I want to let you know that these are making a difference.

Overall, our schools are doing better as evidenced by our Five Star Rating System.

It’s not easy to be a Five-Star School. That’s why we have fewer than 100 in the entire state.

Today, we have more Five-Star Schools than the year before and fewer One-Star Schools.

The investments we are making and the policies we have in place are improving our schools. We are moving in the right direction.

Another program that continues to excel is our Idaho Math Initiative. Ninety-three school districts across the state are now using Think Through Math. Think Through Math is a web-based mathematics program that teachers can use in the classroom or to supplement instruction outside the school day.

Students can log on from any computer and work to solve complex math problems in a fun, game-like environment. If they run into problems, they can get help from a live tutor. Last school year, more than 30,000 Idaho students logged in and solved nearly 13 million complex math problems. Of those, 4 million were solved outside of the school day, in the evening or on the weekends.  So far this year, students have already solved 8.3 million problems. Of those, nearly 2 million have been solved outside the school day. We are well on our way to exceeding that previous record.

Teachers and parents love this program. One teacher at Vision Charter School said she had 5 students choose to stay in at recess to work on Think Through Math problems. This is the difference. Students are not only learning math; they are learning a love of math!

We also are seeing our teachers benefit from the three-credit Mathematical Thinking for Instruction course now as we transition to higher academic standards across the state. The MTI course was implemented in 2008, long before the state voluntarily adopted the Idaho Core Standards. Yet, in this class, teachers learn strategies to better teach problem-solving and critical thinking skills. They learn how to apply lessons to real-world situations so their students see the relevance in what they are learning. More than 12,500 teachers and administrators across Idaho have taken the MTI Course. This course is well-aligned with the standards Idaho chose to adopt, and Idaho’s teachers are better prepared today because of it.

Now, I will focus on the budget I am proposing for fiscal year 2015. I submitted my budget request at the beginning of October so we could incorporate the final work of the Task Force for Improving Education into this budget request.

This 31-member group representing stakeholders across Idaho worked for 8 months and put forward 20 recommendations – a clear path to change and improve Idaho’s education system for all students by the year 2020.

The Task Force’s final report detailed a clear framework for this path forward, including several budget estimates.

I encourage you to read the Task Force’s final report, all 49 pages. This is not just a list of 20 bullet points. Each recommendation has more detail than you might expect. I believe this work was impressive.

First and foremost, the Task Force embraced the State Board’s goal for 60% of Idahoans between the ages of 25 and 34 to attain a postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2020.

Every recommendation works to accomplish this goal.

When totaled, we estimate the recommendations will cost $350 million to $400 million over the course of 5 to 6 years.

We strongly believe implementation must begin today.

If you will remember, last year at this time, we all spoke highly of the work of this Task Force and how we would wait to consider major changes to our public education system until that Task Force had time to complete its work.

Well, the Task Force has completed its work. In fact, our work has been done and published for nearly 6 months now. 

We are eager to begin implementation. I do not believe we can wait another year to start this work.

That is why I submitted a budget last fall to show legislators, parents, teachers and Idahoans what a budget would look like if this Legislature was to fully implement just the first year of the Task Force recommendations.

So at this time, I would like to walk through and highlight the line items requested in that budget recommendation. 

At the end, I will discuss those line item requests that I support changing since this budget proposal was first put forward in October.

The budget I put forward in October requested a 5.4% increase in general funds, or an additional $69.8 million, for Idaho’s public schools.

Aligned with the Task Force recommendations, this budget proposal focused on several key areas.

Before I get into each focus area, let me address just two areas of the budget that we address every year: student population growth and the maintenance match.

Every year, we have a discussion about our estimate for growth.

It is typically in February that we have the most accurate information. I understand my estimate for growth next year is different than the estimate the Governor put forward. However, based on what we know today, I am more comfortable using the higher growth estimate we have projected.

Our growth estimate is budgeted at $6.8 million. 

I also have proposed the second year of a three-year restoration of maintenance match funding to help districts maintain their existing school facilities.

This second year will cost $6 million.

Now, let me go into each focus area of the budget.

First, Professional Development.

This budget proposes $12.2 million in ongoing funding for professional development.

While this funding is already built into the public schools budget, I have proposed it as a separate line item because professional development this year should not be a one-time effort we attempt when we have additional funds available.

It should be a long-term, ongoing investment on behalf of Idaho’s students to ensure their teachers are receiving the tools and resources they need to stay current in the classroom.

Whether it is transitioning to new or higher standards or equipping teachers with the most current research in how to teach mathematics like we did through the Idaho Math Initiative, professional development is an ongoing need for teachers year after year.

If you remember, for this fiscal year, the Legislature gave Idaho’s schools and districts flexibility to use up to $8.4 million of the funding available through differential pay to use toward professional development.

In addition, the Legislature funded $3.75 million in funding specifically for professional development. Currently, our focus of this funding has been on transitioning to higher academic standards.

We have focused some of this money on providing regional coaches in English language arts and mathematics who are experts in their field and can provide immediate professional development to teachers and school districts.

I hear positive feedback about our regional coaches all the time.

No matter where I travel or the reason, I now get to see Idaho’s new Core Standards that we adopted in 2011 in action in Idaho’s classrooms. It is nothing short of amazing.

Idaho’s teachers are hard at work implementing these new, higher standards in mathematics and English language arts at all grade levels.

These standards emphasize critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. They make sure students see relevance in what they are learning and are better prepared when they graduate from high school.

Why is this important?  I’ll tell you why.

We know that almost half of our high school graduates who choose to go on after high school have to take remedial courses once they get there.

Parents are asking, Why is my child who just walked across that stage and earned a diploma three months ago now taking remedial math in college?

One reason is because our standards in K-12 education quite simply were not high enough.

That is why we raised them.

High academic standards are the foundation of a high-quality education system.

It’s our responsibility to make sure that our students are not just doing well while they are IN school but when they are OUTSIDE of school where they will live and work. That is the real measure of how well our schools are doing.

These standards provide a solid foundation from which to build going forward.

We are still more than a year away from the first time we measure students against these higher standards.

As I talked about earlier, we are transitioning to a new test to measure against these higher standards. Just as the standards are different, Idaho’s assessments will also look different.

We are phasing this test in over three years. Last spring, we piloted this assessment in more than 120 Idaho schools.

This spring, all schools and students will have the chance to take a trial run of the test before it becomes fully operational next year.

This is an opportunity for every student, teacher, and parent to become more familiar with this new test.

As I have said in the past, because these standards are so much higher, we know not as many students will score on grade level the first time we measure them against these standards in Spring 2015.

It’s not because our students woke up one day and were less smart than they were the day before.

It’s because we have raised the bar. And that’s a good thing. Our students will be better prepared for success as a result.

We know this because we have evidence that the standards are working.

Kentucky became the first state to implement the Common Core State Standards in 2010. That state has now tested students against these higher standards for two years in a row.

Before implementing these higher standards, only 34 percent of students in Kentucky graduated from high school prepared to go on to college or into the workforce. After just one year of implementing the new standards, that number increased to 47 percent.

Now, after two years of implementation, 54 percent of students graduating from Kentucky high schools are prepared for college or career.

These are students who no longer have to take remedial courses when they go on to a university, college, or professional-technical school.

Their employers no longer have to spend money to train them on critical math or communication skills they should have learned in high school.

These higher standards are working!

In addition to this ongoing professional development funding, I am requesting an additional $250,000 to begin to implement one of the Task Force recommendations.

Specifically, the Task Force recommended site-based collaboration time for teachers to work together in professional learning communities.

This is already taking place successfully across the state in several schools and districts, such as Coeur d’Alene or Forrest M. Bird Charter School. But we know it will require a restructuring of the school day calendar in many other schools and districts.

Therefore, I am proposing this funding to provide master calendar training to assist school administrators in creating time for job-embedded professional development and collaboration among teachers that best fits their needs at the local level.

Our second area of focus is Technology.

This budget includes continued $13.4 million in funding for technology. This funding is the same amount the Legislature provided for technology last year.

This funding has been broken down into several areas: 
·    An estimated $8 million is distributed directly to local school districts and public charter schools for classroom technology,
·    $2.25 million is being used to create and maintain wireless environments in Idaho’s public high schools,
·    $3 million is appropriated for technology pilots, and
·    $150,000 is being used to set up an online course portal for parents and students. 

Now, the Task Force for Improving Education put forward significant recommendations regarding technology.

We recommended every public school have the high-speed bandwidth and wireless infrastructure that is necessary for equal access and opportunity.

They also recommended every educator and student have access to computing devices in the classroom.

I believe we as a state are already on a path to accomplishing these two recommendations.

As this body is aware, in 2009, we embarked on a years-long process to connect every one of our public high schools to each other and to our colleges and universities through a secure, broadband intranet system – to bridge the digital divide.

Just two years later, the first phase of the Idaho Education Network was completed, making it possible for students in every high school across the state – no matter how rural or remote – to take classes not only from the best teachers in their high school but also from the best teachers anywhere in the state.

This has created great opportunities for students across Idaho.

Before the Idaho Education Network was deployed, we could only see pockets of success across the state where students in rural areas were fortunate enough to take dual credit courses.

The West Side School District made this possible years before anyone else by tapping into the Utah Education Network.

Now, when I visit schools, I am bound to run into a student who has several college or professional-technical credits already completed.

In Kimberly, I met Jericho Schroeder. She is still in high school but just earned her associate’s degree through the College of Southern Idaho.

Last fall, I heard from 26 other students in North Idaho who proudly earned their associate’s degree before graduating from high school.

The IEN has made this possible, and I strongly support Phase II of IEN to expand this broadband access into middle schools and elementary schools.

While this is not in the Public Schools Budget, I want to voice my support for the Department of Administration’s request. I believe it is well-aligned with the Task Force recommendations.

As a state, we also are putting the necessary wireless infrastructure in place in Idaho’s high schools.

Rural Sugar-Salem School District was one of the first to sign up for wireless provided by the state.

Alan Dunn, superintendent in Sugar-Salem, says he is pleased with the fact that his students are not just using the internet, but using technology to advance their education.

That’s the difference.

Wireless connectivity gives Sugar-Salem and other schools the ability to put more advanced technology in the classroom where teachers and students can utilize it to the best of their ability.

No longer do students and teachers have to wait for their turn in the computer lab. The computer lab is there – in the classroom – when they need it, when it works into their lesson plan.

More than 80% of Idaho’s school districts and public charter schools signed up to participate in wireless this first year.

We are on track to connect all of these schools by the end of March, as expected.

In the world we live in today, we know we cannot just limit these opportunities to our high school students.  The Task Force recognized this.

That is why you will see a recommendation to continue to expand broadband and wireless infrastructure to all schools in the state.

Ongoing funding for wireless infrastructure and maintenance in Idaho’s high schools is critical now and in the future. 

Now, I understand when the contract was signed earlier this summer, some legislators had questions about the intent language.

If there is anything I have learned, it is that I will make sure we all have a clear understanding of intent language, what it means and exactly how it will be carried out in the future.

Now that we have established the broadband and wireless infrastructure, we are researching the best technology devices to invest in statewide.

Of the total funding for technology that was appropriated last year, $3 million was set aside for technology pilots across the state.

The goal is for these schools to pilot innovative technologies that, if successful, might be duplicated in every school to give Idaho teachers the tools they need to help raise academic achievement.

We received applications from 81 schools across Idaho, totaling $20 million in requests for grant funding.

You can tell by the number of applications we received that the demand is there. It has become organic in Idaho’s classrooms.

We worked with a committee of experts in education technology to design the application process and then appointed a committee of educational stakeholders to conduct a blind review process and select the award schools.

To be eligible, a pilot project had to be a full integration model and designed to improve student academic growth and financial efficiencies throughout an entire school.

The project had to be scalable to other schools in Idaho and sustainable after the technology pilot period ends.

Each application also included a research component so the State Department of Education can evaluate the pilot projects and identify best practices.

In the end, 11 schools were selected. Each represented a cross-section of schools – made up of all different grade levels, demographics and from different regions.

These pilots were intended to last for two years, so they are still in their initial stages. But we are already seeing positive results.

At Beutler Middle School in Dayton, for example, students and teachers have fully embraced the new 1:1 iPad technology.

For example, students strongly prefer the eBooks on their iPads over their printed textbooks. Why?

When you go to Beutler, you will see these eBooks are not stagnant like the textbook you and I know. Students are interacting with the book.

In science class, for example, students can watch mitosis as it happens.

If they don’t fully understand it the first time, they can go back and review it again.

Or as shown in this video, a student can look at DNA and manipulate it and see exactly how it works.

If they don’t fully understand it the first time, they can go back and review it again.

This technology is not limited to math or science class. It is being used effectively in the arts, such as music.

Here is just one example. We asked the talented Cathyanne Nonini to help us demonstrate this educational app.

[video clip shown here]

Needless to say, the second time around, she got a 100%.

At Kuna Middle School, they are piloting a 1:1 of Chromebooks. They have received very positive initial feedback from teachers so far.

One teacher said: “I am comfortable with the increased amount of collaborative learning that students are able to accomplish using the Chromebooks and the additional resources they are able to access.”

Another teacher described how teachers can now individualize instruction for each student. While students are working independently, the teacher can go around the room, grade papers, and accomplish work on the Chromebook while still keeping in close proximity to students if they need help.

These are just two examples from our pilot schools.

Pilots must be just the beginning, not the end. These 11 pilots represent just 2% of our schools.

Our efforts in technology are not enough if we end up with a situation where a parent has to hope that their child is lucky enough to attend a school that was fortunate enough to receive a grant.

So for this reason, after we get the full results and research back from these pilots, I look forward to discussions with this Legislature about how to move forward to invest in technology in every Idaho school.

When I have described many of the opportunities available to our students because of our current investments in technology, one question parents have asked is, “How can they find out about these opportunities?”

For example, if the University of Idaho is offering an excellent Calculus course, how can students outside of Moscow find out about that course so they can take it?

For this reason, we are now creating an online course portal so parents and students can find all courses available for K-12 public school students. They also will be able to rate courses and provide meaningful feedback.

The Legislature invested $150,000 last session to create this portal. Staff at the State Department of Education has been hard at work to get this portal off the ground.

We anticipate the RFP will go out to potential providers in February. Providers will include Idaho Digital Learning Academy, Idaho school districts and public charter schools, and Idaho’s colleges and universities.

We expect the online portal will be officially launched in March, so parents and students can begin using it to enroll in courses for the summer and next fall.

The third focus area is STEM education.

I have requested $500,000 to continue the Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Program.

As you know, this program is heading into its fifth year, and, with this funding, we would like for it to continue well into the future.

ISAS first began in 2009. I worked closely with former astronaut and current Boise State Distinguished Educator-in-Residence Barbara Morgan to create this program along with partner organizations, such as NASA, the Discovery Center of Idaho, Boise State University, Micron, and Idaho Digital Learning Academy.

It’s a competitive program specifically designed for Idaho high school juniors.

In their spring semester, students take an engaging, online course that focuses on space exploration.

Through this course, they learn a broad range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, skills aligned with our statewide standards.

Based on their performance in this course, students are then selected to participate in a weeklong, all-expenses-paid, residential Summer Academy at Boise State University and the NASA Ames Research Center in California.

Idaho is only one of four states in the nation privileged to offer this program as a NASA partner.

To date, more than 800 students have already benefited from this program across Idaho. Many of them have now gone on to study engineering or medicine or science… As a state, this is one of several ways in which we have partnered with industry to help Idaho students pursue more career opportunities in the STEM fields, and I am eager to see it continue.

The Department offered seed money to begin this program in its first year. We have been able to continue it with a $1.2 million grant from NASA.

But that grant has now expired. It is now time to transition to a state-funded model that is sustainable in the long-term. It will cost about $500,000 a year to continue.

Barbara Morgan remains an integral part of this program. We are pleased to have her continued support.

The fourth focus area is School Safety and Security.

Last year, in the wake of the tragedy at Newtown, Connecticut, this Legislature appropriated $100,000 for the state to work with first responders and educational stakeholders to take a renewed look at school safety and security.

This issue only continues to be at the forefront of our minds as we hear about school shootings taking place in Nevada and Colorado. Just last week, there was another school shooting took place at a charter school in Philadelphia.

We never want to look back and ask, “Could we have done more, or should we have done more?” 

Budget-setting is an exercise in priorities; there is no higher priority than the safety of our students and the staff that supports them.

That is why my staff has been working with a group of first responders, educators as well as a liaison from the Governor’s Office to address the challenges we face.

The stakeholder group met as a full group and subcommittees throughout 2013.

This fall, the group developed a valid, reliable, multi-hazard threat assessment tool and implemented it among a sample of 74 schools.

This activity provided a snapshot of our school’s preparedness to prevent and respond to crises situations.  We plan on rolling this out to all schools statewide in the near future.

What also became apparent throughout the work of this group is that schools not only need resources at the local level, but they also need technical assistance from the state once they have identified areas for improvement. 

Local administrators, teachers and staff have the interest and will to ensure the safety of their students; however, too often they lack the expertise.

That is why this request includes $2.2 million that will flow directly to Idaho’s schools and districts as well as an additional $500,000 to be used at the state level, so we can provide hands-on technical assistance to local school districts.

The $500,000 will provide critical support for the development of an Idaho Center for School Safety, modeled after the Texas School Safety Center. 

The Idaho Center for School Safety will be the one-stop shop for districts to access training, threat assessment implementation support, best practices, research, and more.

The Center will provide statewide support as well as support at the regional level.

This funding is essential going forward. No child will be free to learn until they are truly free from intimidation and fear.

The fifth focus area is Technical Advisory Committees. 

My budget proposes $300,000 for technical advisory committees that will work to implement the Task Force recommendations.

I have already described several Task Force recommendations and how we plan to take initial steps to implement them. But as you know, there are 20 recommendations in total.

It is clear that some of these recommendations need additional work before they can be fully implemented.

For example, take the recommendation to implement a continuum of professional growth and learning that is tied to licensure. This is commonly referred to as Tiered Licensure.

This is something the State Department of Education had been working on before the Task Force began to meet. We presented this work to the Task Force, and they chose to adopt it.

The Task Force wrote more than a page outlining a framework for Tiered Licensure and its goals.

In addition, the Task Force recommended the Department set up a work group to determine expectations and authentic measures for Tiered Licensure.

Therefore, last fall, we put together a stakeholder group to do just this.

We have already held 3 meetings with another one scheduled in February. This work is progressing along well, and we expect to have recommendations to the State Board of Education by this Spring.

Eventually, this system of Tiered Licensure will be tied into the Career Ladder Compensation Model for teachers.

Similar to Tiered Licensure, we believe there are other recommendations that need additional work from experts in their respective fields before they can be fully implemented.
These recommendations include:
1.    Mastery-Based Education System
2.    Literacy Proficiency
3.    Accountability and Governance
4.    Statewide Electronic Collaboration System
5.    Tiered Licensure & Career Ladder Compensation Model

Let me describe a couple briefly.

The Task Force has recommended the state shift to a mastery-based system where students advance based upon content mastery, rather than seat time requirements. This may not require additional funding, but it may require a structural change to Idaho’s funding formula.

Some school districts, such as Garden Valley, are already working toward a mastery-based system. We need to learn from these districts and others across the country before implementation.

Second, the Task Force recommended students demonstrate mastery of literacy before moving on to significant content learning.

We know reading proficiency is a major benchmark in a student’s education, especially around the 3rd grade.

Students must learn to read before they can read to learn content in other subject areas. The state already invests more than $2 million each year in the Idaho Reading Initiative. Based on this Task Force recommendation, we need a technical advisory committee to look at the money we are currently spending and how it might be spent differently to achieve the Task Force’s recommendation.

Just as these two require more work, so do the other three. One of those in particular is Tiered Licensure and how it ties into the Career Ladder. While we have made great progress on the Tiered Licensure System, I believe educational stakeholders need to work together on the details of the Career Ladder before it is fully implemented next year. I believe we can take an initial step toward the Career Ladder this year, and I will discuss that in a moment.

I am proposing funding to set up a Technical Advisory Committee to address each of these five recommendations in further detail and bring recommendations back to this Legislature next year for your to review.

In many of these cases, I do not think we can wait until July 1st to begin this work.

Now, one thing that was brought up throughout the Task Force discussions was the lack of a student voice at the table. We accepted student feedback throughout our work, but it would have been great to have students working with us at the table.

So in addition to these groups, I am requesting $50,000 to set up a Student Advisory Group at the state level.

As I travel across the state, visiting classrooms and talking with students is always the best part of my job. I always am keenly aware of the conversations I have with students, especially our high school-age students, about our education system and how it can be improved.

I learn a lot from them and often bring their ideas back to the Department to implement – especially when it comes to the proper use and implementation of technology.

It is time to take their valuable and needed input to the next step. So we will use $50,000 to establish this student advisory committee at the state level so students have a consistent way to provide input in our conversation on education going forward. 

That represents the line item requests in that budget recommendation that have remained the same.

Now, Mr. Chairman, I would like to discuss those line item requests that I support changing since this budget proposal was first put forward in October.

As I have said, my October budget proposal laid out what it would look like if this Legislature implemented the first year of the Task Force recommendations.

Since then, there has been much discussion among legislators, parents, teachers and other stakeholders in education.

Therefore, here are three revisions I would like to recommend to my initial budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2015.

First, I am recommending a change to the amount of funding requested for discretionary funds.

When I developed my October budget, it reflected the first year of implementation of the Task Force recommendations. The Task Force estimated it would take $16.5 million a year to restore discretionary funds over five years.

Therefore, I budgeted $16.5 million for Fiscal Year 2015.

Since then, some districts have requested receiving this amount more expeditiously than initially suggested by the Task Force, and I agree.

This funding will help restore fiscal stability to our local school districts.

I fully support the Governor’s recommendation to restore $35 million in discretionary funding in Fiscal Year 2015.

Second, I am recommending a revision to my initial line item request for the first year of implementation of the Career Ladder.

My initial request included $42.5 million for the Career Ladder. This represents the cost of the first full year of implementation of the transition to this Career Ladder Compensation Model for teachers.

The Task Force recognized that Idaho’s teachers are the most important factor in the classroom, and we have to find a way to keep our best and the brightest.

That is why we developed the framework for this Career Ladder, which combines competitive salaries for teachers with incentives, rewards and accountability.

Now, I understand that more work needs to be done before the Career Ladder can be fully implemented. However, there still is a first step we can take today.

Part of the Career Ladder is not only based on Tiered Licensure but also includes Leadership Awards.

The Task Force recommended about $16 million a year in Leadership Awards to go to local school districts to be awarded at the local level to Idaho’s teachers.

I believe this Legislature can and should take this initial step in funding the Leadership Awards portion of the Career Ladder by using the current $21 million we have available for differential pay.

In fact, the Task Force even suggested this in its final report to the Governor.

The report noted that the Legislature could repurpose the current $21 million to begin the implementation of the Career Ladder in this first year.

In addition to $16 million in Leadership Awards this year and based on the recommendation from the Change in Employee Compensation Committee, I also recommend a 1% increase in salary-based apportionment for teachers in Fiscal Year 2015.

Once the Career Ladder is fully implemented, starting salary will increase to $40,000. The two other tiers in the Career Ladder would reach close to $50,000 and $60,000, respectively.

However, until we make this transition, I believe we should fund a combination of Leadership Awards and a base salary increase for teachers so that we make progress where we can on the Task Force’s recommendation regarding teacher compensation.

Because neither school administrators nor classified staff will participate in Leadership Awards, I am recommending a 2% increase in salary-based apportionment for them.

Third, I recommend a revision to the funding for Advanced Opportunities.

I had originally proposed $5.6 in total funding to expand Advanced Opportunities for Idaho’s students. Based on more recent estimates, we believe this line item will cost $3 million in total funding.

In the budget proposal, you will see we have created a new line item called Advanced Opportunities that combines Dual Credit for Early Completers, 8 in 6 and the MAP program as well as this additional funding.

This request is aligned with the Task Force recommendation to ensure all students have access to advanced opportunities by expanding post-secondary offerings while a student is still in high school.

It is clear students are taking advantage of all the opportunities the state is already providing, and the interest and the demand is only growing.

Students want to go on and pursue education after high school, and they know one of the best ways to get a jumpstart is while they are still in high school.

The numbers prove it.

Two years ago, 17,000 high school students across Idaho were taking dual credit courses. In just one year, that number grew to 27,000.

And in just the first semester of this year, 24,000 students have already enrolled in the advanced courses.

Senator Thayn and Representative Burgoyne are sponsoring legislation to expand opportunities to more students.

Under this bipartisan bill, high school juniors could receive up to $200 a year and high school seniors could receive up to $400 a year to take advantage of dual credit, AP or professional-technical opportunities.

I fully support this legislation, and I hope you will too.

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, this revised budget request would represent a 5.1% increase in state general funds, or an increase of $66.9 million in Fiscal Year 2015.

As a fiscal conservative, I realize as much as anyone that the budget is a real consideration, not just this year, but every year in the future.

My budget request this year is an increase of $66.9 million. Going forward, if we are to accomplish the implementation of the Task Force recommendations over the next five years, it will require this kind of funding increases every year going forward.

How we fund these recommendations now and in the future must be a part of any serious conversation about education reform in Idaho.

I believe we have the funding this year for each of the requests I put forward.

However, I understand many of you are already thinking to the future.

Whether we are talking about the first steps of implementing these recommendations or the funding to address every recommendation in the long term, I know none of these conversations or decisions will be easy. 

In fact, they will be hard.

But I believe that those who elected us, elected us to make difficult decisions they expect us to find solutions to complex problems, and these decisions are critical decisions that we cannot shy away from.

Every educational stakeholder group, every parent, every student has a sense of urgency to see these implemented.

We can take a first step this year toward implementing the Task Force recommendations. Taking the first step this year will allow us to take the second step next year.

To do this, we must come to the realization that this is not about us, the adults. It is about the kids.

Idaho’s children deserve the best: the best teachers, the best standards, the best opportunities, the best access to the best technology, the best education.

Idaho’s children deserve the opportunity to live the American dream like you and I are living it today. A world-class education is more essential today than ever to make that dream a reality.

Together, we can make this a reality. It will take true leadership, short-term investments, and a long-term commitment to change.

I hope you will join me this year as we begin the work of implementation so we can make a world-class education system in Idaho a reality.

That is what I am asking for in the budget I have put forward today. I understand it will not be easy.

But it will be worth it.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Committee Members. With that, I will stand for questions.

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