Idaho Superintendent of Schools, Sherri Ybarra is requesting more than $2.2 billion in general fund appropriations for the fiscal year 2023 budget. The current 2022 fiscal appropriations budget is $2.048 billion however, she is requesting a supplemental appropriation that would increase the current budget to $2.081 billion. Next years budget includes more than $39 million for funding full-day kindergarten for Idaho’s at-risk students. I certainly have an opinion on full-day kindergarten, however setting that aside and looking at this situation, I have an issue with this request. Who determines at-risk? What if you have a brilliant student that lives in poverty and a struggling student whose family doesn’t meet the income cap? Interesting to say the least.
Ybarra’s 2023 budget also includes more than $49 million to increase teacher pay. This is a great idea if it actually goes to teachers and doesn’t stay at the district office continuing to increase District Superintendents and Curriculum Directors already high pay. IdahoEdNews.org reported that the average teacher salary for 2020-2021 was $50,794. They also reported that for the 2018-19 year, the top ten Superintendent’s salaries ranged from $145,580 to $177,395. In addition, Ybarra is asking for $10.3 million to increase classified staff salaries and $2.1 million to increase administration salaries. Idaho paraprofessionals or classified staff make an average of $30,018 a year according to ZipRecruiter. According to Salary.com, the average School Principal salary in Idaho is $105,048 as of December 27, 2021 however, the range usually falls between $92,783 and $118,169. As a former educator, I’ve been on the frontlines in the fight to increase teacher pay. It’s obvious from salary averages that both paraprofessionals and educators are long overdue in pay increases. The question is whether or not tax payers believe the differences in pay at the district office level verses the classroom level are really fair? Are people at the district office really working that much harder than people in the classroom? Have folks at the district level really taken that many more credits and earned that many more degrees than classroom teachers to warrant this pay difference?
Ybarra’s budget also asks for $26 million to continue the push to increase K-3 literacy and $33 million to continue to fund Advanced Opportunities. I always say follow the money and I’d feel more comfortable if Legislators would take a look at all of these issues not just continue to make broad increases. Is educating Idaho’s children important? Absolutely, Idaho children are our future and we need to provide them with the best possible education. We have proven that throwing more money in the educational system does not equal improved education.