Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna—who has kept a deliberately low profile since the November voter defeat of his Students Come First initiatives—stepped back into the spotlight this morning as he unveiled his request for 2014 funding before the Idaho Legislature's budget-writing committee.
Standing before the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, Luna asked for a modest 3 percent increase in funding, totaling $1.3 billion, including $10.4 million earmarked for technology, $10 million for facilities, $3.7 million for professional development and $150,000 for a safe-schools task force. Luna's plan also includes $4.85 million for math and science instructors and $300,000 for school administrator evaluations.
“Even in the deepest part of the great recession, our generations are seeing this legislature never cut our public schools in the middle of the school year," he said.
"It’s obvious that Idaho has good schools, and we’re blessed to live and raise our families here,” he said before cautioning, “The same data also tells us that we still face many challenges.”
Luna's request for a 3 percent increase tops Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's proposed increase of 2 percent for public-school funding.
Luna added that he wants to restore 1.67 percent in base salaries for Idaho teachers, and a $500 increase in the minimum teacher salary to $31,000. The 1.67 percent figure is the exact amount that was removed through the Students Come First initiatives, which sent the funds to fuel Luna's other plans, such as more technology in classrooms.
Luna said he proposed $10.4 million for technology to "make sure there was no interruption" in earlier efforts to bring more hardware and software into Idaho classrooms.