Little turns to federal money to help fund his education wishlist

Governor Brad Little answers reporters’ question at a press conference Monday. Kyle Pfannenstiel / Idaho EdNews

Gov. Brad Little hopes the legislature will foot the bills for one-time teacher bonuses, workforce development training, and family grants using federal dollars sent to Idaho by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the latest congressional coronavirus relief package.

Little’s budget manager Alex Adams led the Legislative Assembly’s House and Senate budget committee on Wednesday, highlighting how a whitelist of education items the governor launched on Monday could be paid.

Little’s asks, in figures:

  • $ 1,000 bonus for public school teachers this fiscal year, which ends June 30, with a prize of $ 17.8 million.
  • Help accelerate teachers’ progress through the state salary scale by giving them $ 104 million in increases. Little wants $ 36.5 million of that to come from federal money and the rest to be paid out of state coffers.
  • $ 50 million in the temporary Empowering Parents Grants, designed to help cover education expenses for families, as announced on Monday.
  • $ 50 million for workforce development training.
  • $ 1.3 million for the training of teleworkers.

Avoiding a funding cliff: ARPA money will eventually run out, and the state’s $ 1.1 billion must be spent by 2026. Thus, the programs Idaho chooses to fund with one-time money should generally be used to cover one-time costs, Adams said. Otherwise, recurrent spending and permanent programs will have to be covered by state money in the years to come or cut.

Little’s proposal to lawmakers, therefore, is that these federally funded education proposals should be one-time programs and spending increases. This is the case of bonuses, training and scholarships that it pushes for example.

Collect money for schools: Idaho K-12 schools have already received some $ 440 million from ARPA. The governor’s proposal to pay $ 54 million in state-controlled ARPA money to school staff – about 5% of the so-called state fiscal stimulus fund – will add to that total, but with a target different.

The money will help “ensure teacher pay is fair and competitive” and help schools retain teachers in an inflation-tight labor market, Adams told the Legislative Budget Drafting Committee Monday.

Most school districts and charters plan to add or maintain staff positions with their federal money, but a minority plan to provide bonuses and financial incentives focused on staff retention, according to an EdNews analysis.

The feds are opening another door to education: The U.S. Department of the Treasury on Friday expanded its list of approved uses for ARPA money, clarifying that state and local governments can use their funds to finance planned investments in schools with more spending on the school. preschool education and to combat learning losses. This could give the legislature even more leeway to funnel federal money to schools in the future.

A note on the teacher raises: Of Little’s $ 104 million proposed for the career ladder, $ 41.6 million would cover the Legislature’s pre-existing obligation to pay increases to teachers based on experience, under the Law of the state, Financial Management Division analyst Gideon Tolman told EdNews by email on Wednesday. In other words, a majority of that $ 104 million – but not all – will be used to secure salary increases for educators sooner than expected.

Ybarra and SDE staff discuss pandemic responses and outlook

Two years after the start of the pandemic, school administrators have shifted from trying to overcome the coronavirus to trying to stay open, State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra said on Wednesday.

Because principals find out about the pandemic, nearly all of Idaho’s schools are open and functioning, Ybarra told the House Education Committee. But that could change, as coronavirus cases rise again.

“We’re starting to see a short-term shutdown, maybe a day here or two days there,” Ybarra said.

Ybarra came to Wednesday’s hearing armed with an 88-page PowerPoint presentation and accompanied by more than a dozen State Department of Education administrators, who told House Education members of the SDE to the pandemic.

In school nutrition, the state has used federal coronavirus relief money to bolster its federally funded programs and will soon use a $ 5.3 million federal grant to address channel issues. supply. Compared to the start of the pandemic, schools may not offer as many breakfasts and lunches for distance learning students, said director of child nutrition Colleen Fillmore. “But if the number (of cases) really starts to increase again, I can see some of that happening.”

Schools have spent the vast majority of the $ 136 million allocated by the first federal coronavirus stimulus law, the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Schools returned only $ 400,000 of that money, said Karen Seay, director of federal programs.

The SDE will now help schools use the rest of the coronavirus aid: $ 642 million, to be spent by September 2024. While that money comes with extensive federal reporting requirements, Seay reminded House Education members that schools have a lot of latitude. They can basically spend the money to fix any problem caused or exacerbated by the pandemic.

Wednesday marked the first full House Education meeting of the 2022 session and Ybarra’s first appearance before lawmakers this session. Ybarra will present his K-12 budget request to the joint finance and appropriation committee on Monday.

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