Otter: backfilling $82.5 million in Idaho K-12 funds needs strings attached

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter favors restoring $82.5 million in operational revenue lost by schools since 2008, but says the money shouldn’t come without conditions.

“That $82 million, as far as I’m concerned, is not going back without some expectations being requested,” Otter said. “If we weren’t spending that $82 million correctly in the first place I don’t want it to go right back into the same environment. I want to create some expectations for that $82 million going back and I think that’s what the task force expects me to do.”

Otter offered his qualification Wednesday, after Lt. Gov. Brad Little’s re-election announcement in Emmett.

Otter told the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce Aug. 27 that he agreed with the recommendation of his education task force that the $82.5 million be restored.

Otter also offered some signals Wednesday about the budget he’ll propose to lawmakers in January.

“We’re just now starting to put the budgets together, and relative to our projected income, I think we’re going to be somewhere between probably 3.5 percent, maybe up to 3.75 percent, increase in budgetary expenditures,” Otter said. “The (revenue) growth is going to be a little bit more than that.

“I think it gives us a chance to do a lot of things, but No. 1 on my agenda is to lay out a four- or five-year plan relative to those suggestions from the education task force.”

The biggest item on that list is a six-year, $253 million teacher pay plan. The task force unanimously urged raising minimum teacher salaries to $40,000, from $31,000 now; and lifting pay for longtime educators to $60,000, while tying the top scale to performance.

The whole package of task force recommendations would cost roughly $350 million.

 

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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