by Gus Blackwell
Since the next legislative session does not begin until February, the interim time period is busy with interim studies and task force meetings studying different topics. The interim studies must be approved by the Speaker of the house and the task force meetings are set up through past legislation.
This week I had two meetings at the Capitol, on e on Monday and the other on Tuesday. The first was the initial meeting of the State Computer Information Technology task force while the second dealt with education funding. The first primarily impacts our part of the state, while the second holds promise of savings and efficiencies for the entire state.
The education subcommittee on appropriations heard my interim study about school funding and how this years funding scenario impacts our area of the state. In the year 2000, teachers were given a pay raise of $3,000 each. In previous years this raise went outside of the school funding formula and every school in the state received the full amount of the pay raise for each teacher. Because of lawsuit concerns, however, it was determined that the full amount could not go outside of the funding formula. This year the full amount went through the funding formula and each school received different amounts for their teachers for that pay raise.
The funding formula attempts to estimate the cost of educating students and then makes sure each school gets that amount. If schools do not have enough local money to reach that amount, then the state will make up the difference. If a school already has more than that amount through local revenue, then the state sends them no money.
Most of the schools in our area have enough money from local property taxes to reach that funding level for each student. So they receive little or no state money. However, when the pay raise from the year 2000 went through the formula, schools in our area did not receive that amount for the pay raise. Instead, they had to fund the pay raise from existing funds.
Added to that problem was the new teacher pay raise that went through the formula. This new mandate also left some schools not receiving any money to pay for that pay raise. Instead the schools had to fund both pay raises with existing funds that were already earmarked for other expenses.
Since this pinch on funds will continue the next four years as teacher pay raises continue to accrue, the problem will only get worse. This interim study is looking at a way to put only a small portion of the pay raise through the formula to still give every school the ability to pay the year 2000 pay raise without using existing funds. This would be a tremendous benefit to schools in our area and not cost the state any more money.
The task force on computers is attempting to look at the use of computers within state agencies. We will explore the problems with the present organization of procurement procedures and if the state needs a redefined centralized computer agency. I have been elected chairman of this task force and we will continue to study how to save the state and taxpayers money.
Boise City News