Idaho’s public education system scored several victories in the 2022 legislative session that concluded this week. As Chairman of the Idaho State Board of Education, I would like to thank Idaho lawmakers and Governor Brad Little for making historic investments in our students, schools, and institutions. and in the dedicated educators across our state who keep our system running while facing tremendous challenges, especially in the past two years.
Idaho’s public school budget will grow nearly 6.7% overall next year, including a historic 12.5% increase in state funding. The budget includes $47 million in additional dollars for literacy to help young students learn to read as early as third grade. These literacy funds will be used by schools to pay for extended-term literacy intervention programs, such as optional full-day kindergarten, to provide literacy intervention to struggling students.
Other important education laws that have become law include:
- $105 million in ongoing funding for school districts and charters to be used to improve health insurance plans for teachers and their families while reducing out-of-pocket costs, resulting in increased take-home pay. Educators will also receive $1,000 bonuses in recognition of their extraordinary efforts since the start of the pandemic.
- One-time funding for teachers and student services staff equal to the estimated amount that would have been distributed in the career ladder for an additional year of service and an increase of approximately 7% in the salary-based distribution for school administrators and classified personnel.
- Screening for dyslexia and training teachers who work with students identified as having characteristics of dyslexia. House Bill 731 will positively impact thousands of Idaho students affected by dyslexia by identifying the characteristics early so they can receive appropriate interventions to help them learn to read.
- A Rural Educator Incentive Program designed to encourage new teachers to work in rural districts by providing funds to help pay student loans or reimbursing them for additional education costs such as obtaining credit for qualify for additional teaching endorsements or high-level degrees.
Our four-year public higher education institutions will see an 8% increase in state funding next year as part of a comprehensive higher education budget that includes funding to cover salary increases for employees. As a result, for the third consecutive year, our college and universities will not be asking for a tuition increase when the Council meets next month in Moscow. This is certainly a positive development for both our students and our institutions.
Idaho’s four community colleges will see nearly 10% new government funding, which I view as a critical investment given the role community colleges play in vocational technical education and meeting private sector demand. statewide for a skilled workforce.
Medical residency programs
This year, the Legislature made historic investments in expanding physician training residency programs — from Coeur d’Alene to Pocatello. In 2020, Idaho ranked 50and in the country for the total number of active doctors per 100,000 inhabitants, and more than 30% of these doctors are aged 60 or over. Without aggressive intervention, Idaho faces a severe doctor shortage exacerbated by rapid population growth. National data shows that a majority of physicians practice medicine in the states where they completed their residency, which is why the expansion of residency programs in Idaho is a good return on investment.
Heads of state made another huge investment in higher education this year – allocating nearly $220 million for capital projects and to address deferred maintenance paid for by the Permanent Building Fund. This is about five times the average amount of Permanent Building Fund dollars that higher education has received over the past five years.
Here is a breakdown of capital projects:
- College of Southern Idaho: $10 million to build an automotive and agricultural diesel mechanics plant
- North Idaho College: $3.3 million to remodel a diesel mechanics bay and build an aerospace training lab
- College of Western Idaho: $10 million to construct a health sciences building and $5 million to construct a horticulture building
- Eastern Idaho Colleges: $13 million for his Future Tech installation
- Idaho State University: $3 million for a pedestrian walkway at ISU’s Idaho Falls campus and $3.4 million for the construction of the Leonard Hall Pharmacy Building
- University of Idaho: $900,000 to improve the McCall Outdoor Science School campus
- Deferred maintenance in all establishments: about $170 million
I cannot stress enough how important these Permanent Building Fund dollars are to helping us provide first-class learning facilities for our students and addressing a massive backlog of maintenance issues across all of our campuses. The citizens of Idaho have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in our campuses, and the funding made available this year will go a long way in helping us keep our higher education assets running.
With a record state surplus and an infusion of US federal bailout dollars, our elected leaders have seized an opportunity and are making a real difference to public education at all levels. During this legislative session, Governor Little and the majority of legislators have demonstrated their commitment to our students and educators and I congratulate them.
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