Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter submitted Idaho's application today for its share of federal education funding recently appropriated by Congress, and he joined Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna in urging local school districts to use the money prudently.
The State Department of Education worked closely with school districts and charter schools eligible to share in the money on responding to an August 20th letter from the Governor announcing the State's decision to apply for an additional $51.6 million in one-time federal funds for Idaho's public schools. The Governor asked local districts to confirm their acceptance of the funding and encouraged them to devote any money they get to preserving student-teacher contact time.
"We know that budgets have been set and most schools now are under way. But as I wrote last month, it is important that our local school boards and superintendents have a say as well," Governor Otter said. "Local school districts tell us they want the money, and how these funds are used ultimately rests in the hands of those same local school officials. So I want to make sure that they have plans in place for putting these taxpayer dollars to the best possible use."
"With funding from the Education Jobs Fund, we will continue to make our students the priority, encouraging local school districts to use these funds effectively and prudently over the next 27 months to preserve student-teacher contact time by rehiring teachers and teaching aides and restoring any instructional days that might have been lost," Superintendent Luna said.
The money was appropriated as part of the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act. Governor Otter is concerned about the cost to taxpayers, but committed to ensuring that Idaho schoolchildren get the benefit of what Congress already has done.
"Funding for public schools remains one of our highest priorities for state government," the Governor said on August 16th in announcing the decision to accept the federal funding. "The Legislature and I have put the largest percentage of General Fund dollars into K-12 education since 1989. With today's decision I have directed more than $445 million in additional resources to public schools since 2009 to minimize the impact of State budget cuts. Over this same period, the unprecedented revenue decline has resulted in cutting the rest of State government by 19.5 percent."