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Rural Education Support Network request rejected

For third year in a row, request rejected by the governor

Idaho Capitol Building

Credit: Contributed photo
Idaho Capitol Building

— For the third year in a row, Superintendent of Public Institution Sherri Ybarra has come forward with a request of $300,000 for a Rural Education Support Network. For the third year in a row, her request has been rejected by the governor.

Ybarra made budget presentations to the Idaho Joint Finance and Appropriations committee Friday, Jan. 26, for both the State Department of Education and K-12 public schools.

As part of the department presentation, Ybarra said the rural network would support students at impoverished schools, schools which are often underserved. Ybarra said now, educators in North Idaho “are poised to start” the first network.

“This ask gives great respect to the culture of our state,” Ybarra said. “There are thousands of children who will positively benefit from these rural networks.”

In the 2016 and 2017 sessions, the $300,000 was controversial and ultimately did not go through.

Sen. Mary Souza, R-Couer d’Alene, said the network would help students in her “part of the state,” North Idaho, and asked why Gov. Butch Otter did not support the request.

Gideon Tolman, one of Otter’s senior financial management analysts for public education, said the governor still does not agree with the initiative.

“The governor does support small schools working together, but does not support a state-level, formalized network to facilitate that collaboration,” Tolman said.

Though the governor has rejected the request, it could still pass if approved by JFAC, the legislature and signed by Otter afterward.

As for the K-12 public schools budget, Ybarra requested a 6.8 percent increase, while the governor put forward a 6 percent increase. The teacher career ladder salaries and benefits requests, which Ybarra said were her top priorities for funding next year, were mostly approved by Otter, though his recommendations for benefits funding were about $5 million below Ybarra’s requested $147.6 million.

Funding for K-12 is the largest part of the state general fund budget.

Nina Rydalch covers the 2018 Idaho Legislature for the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research.


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