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Ybarra proposes nearly $2 billion school budget

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra is proposing a $1.9 billion general fund budget request for fiscal year 2020.

Appearing before the Legislature’s Joint Finance Appropriations Committee Thursday, Ybarra said the budget would improve teacher pay, offer mastery-based education, and help high school students better prepare for college and careers.

Ybarra’s budget request would increase general fund spending by 6.8%. Governor Brad Little has recommended a 6.1% increase.

A new proposal, called Keep Idaho Students Safe, or KISS, was introduced last spring. The student safety initiative includes a $19 million supplemental funding request to help districts implement local safety programs this year. That program also includes “social-emotional” student needs and “trauma-informed” teaching strategies.

“If students don’t feel safe at school, it’s harder for them to concentrate, learn and succeed,” Ybarra said. “The KISS initiative is an essential part of reaching our department’s prime goal of preparing all Idaho children to persevere in life and be ready for college and careers.”

Ybarra said the KISS-related requests include $1.4 million for educator and staff training, over $100,000 for a full-time crisis prevention counselor for the State Department of Education staff. That person will help schools prepare, prevent, and respond to crises.

Other key budget items include funding to reduce Idaho’s teacher shortage, career ladder pay hikes for all teachers, and a program to fund the first year of master educator premiums. Those would net qualified applicants an extra $4,000 a year for three years.

She also proposed a “teacher pipeline” to help schools fill hard-to-fill positions, an additional million dollars for Idaho’s math initiative, and $3 million to help students pursue college credits during high school.

“The public schools budget is not a cost but an investment in the lives and futures of Idaho’s children,” Ybarra said. “I am encouraged by Governor Little placing education funding at the top of his priorities, and by the engagement and commitment of new leadership and other lawmakers.”

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