Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra will ask the Idaho State Legislature for a $101 million increase to the state’s public schools budget for fiscal year 2021.

During a presentation at the Idaho State Board of Education meeting at Lewis-Clark State College on Wednesday, Ybarra said the request would account for a 5.3 percent increase over the current year’s appropriations. If it was approved by the Legislature, it would bring the general education budget for K-12 to $1.99 billion.

After meeting with various stakeholder groups, Ybarra said the three most consistent priorities were building out the career ladder to boost teacher salaries; continued or increased funds for early literacy support; and college and career advising.

About $38 million of the $101 million request is for items that are required by state law, according to Tim Hill, the state’s assistant superintendent.

Much of the remaining request goes toward line-item requests that align with recommendations set forth by the Governor’s Task Force, including a $40 million boost to veteran teachers’ pay.

Outside of increases to salaries and health insurance costs, Ybarra is requesting $1 million for social and emotional training for district staff and $500,000 to expand mastery-based education in the state.

The amount of the request seemed to concern some of the other state board members.

“In a year when the state government is concerned about (increases), that kind of gobbles up all, if not more, than the entire surplus,” board member Emma Atchley said. “We have other institutions and other concerns in education and I just want to feel comfortable that this is the best use of our dollars.”

Ybarra said the state has seen a good return on its investment in education through funded initiatives like reading intervention and mastery-based education. This request would help continue that trend, she said.

“I will say Idaho is growing exponentially. We are still backfilling from the recession and we are still seeing gains,” Ybarra said. “I think it’s because we have a laser-like focus on what we are doing with that money.”

Tomtas may be contacted at jtomtas@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.

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