BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho's schools chief on Thursday asked lawmakers for a 3.8% budget increase to about $2.4 billion to educate the more than 300,000 students in grades K-12.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra told lawmakers on the Legislature's budget-setting Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Thursday that educating students has been especially difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"There has never been a more challenging time for education," she told lawmakers.
Her budget is about $25 million less than what was recommended by Republican Gov. Brad Little, who is seeking a 4.8% increase for the next fiscal year.
Public schools represent about 50 percent of the state's budget.
Ybarra's plan has just over $2 billion coming from the state's general fund and about $290 million from the federal government. Another $100 million comes from dedicated funds, which includes money generated from state-owned lands.
Little's budget is similar, but with an additional $25 million coming from the general fund. In general fund money, Ybarra is seeking a 2.5% increase while Little is recommending a 3.7% increase.
Ybarra said that Idaho teacher salaries are up, but that the state's average teacher salary remains lower than most neighboring states.
A teacher "has the greatest impact on student success," Ybarra said.
In her budget, the largest request is about $865 million for "career ladder" salaries. Little's budget for that item is about $20 million more.
Ybarra, in response to a question from a lawmaker, said the majority of Idaho schools were holding in-person classes.
The budget committee will vote on the education and other agency budgets in the coming months.