JFAC approves Idaho greater schooling price range

JFAC approves Idaho higher education budget

Legislative budget-writers accepted a spending plan for greater schooling — and principally adopted Gov. Brad Little’s playbook.

However that doesn’t imply the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee was of 1 thoughts Thursday morning — and JFAC’s debate illustrated some sharp variations on greater ed spending.

A number of conservatives wished to zero out state funding for social justice positions and public radio. Democrats made a failed push so as to add some cash to assist four-year faculties settle into newly constructed services. One Democrat steered a big-money push designed to curb tuition prices.

Thursday’s backside line: JFAC accepted offering $353.9 million of taxpayer cash to the four-year faculties: Boise State College, the College of Idaho, Idaho State College and Lewis-Clark State School. That represents a 4.7% enhance. (It additionally doesn’t embrace the $324.6 million the faculties obtain from different sources, notably scholar tuition and charges.)

The price range invoice, which now should cross the Home and Senate, leaves a few main unanswered questions. The price range may nonetheless defund 56 range, fairness and inclusion positions on the four-year campuses. And it would or may not be sufficient to move off a tuition enhance, after three years of freezes.

What handed, and what didn’t

JFAC opened Thursday morning’s listening to with 4 completely different price range choices on the desk:

James Petzke, R-Meridian, led a gaggle pushing the $353.9 million price range. The spending plan solely deviates from Little’s plan in a single space. It whittles Little’s price range request for worker pay raises — proposing a complete of $14.7 million for raises, as an alternative of the $17.4 million Little advisable.

Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, took the Petzke price range and made one addition. She wished $706,000 for “occupancy prices:” the expense of staffing and opening new services. Ward-Engelking famous that the state used to supply occupancy prices, however stopped through the Recession. “That’s a deal we made with the schools,” she mentioned.

Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, made a $350.1 million counteroffer. He proposed slicing $395,000 in taxpayer funding for Boise State Public Radio, and $4.8 million to chop 56 “social justice workers” jobs on the four-year faculties. “That’s exterior the core mission of what we’d like the schools to do,” Herndon mentioned.

Colin Nash, D-Boise, took the Petzke price range, and made one large change. He proposed taking $85 million from the state’s new in-demand careers fund — the cash Little has proposed utilizing for his Idaho Launch postsecondary incentives program. As an alternative, Nash wished to make use of the $85 million to cap tuition at $6,000 a yr.

After dialogue, JFAC began winnowing down the sector.

Herndon’s price range failed first, on a 6-13 vote.

Ward-Engelking’s price range was subsequent to fall, on a party-line, 3-16 vote.

Petzke’s price range in the end handed on a 16-3 price range, with Herndon and Republican Reps. Josh Tanner of Eagle and Tina Lambert of Caldwell voting no.

When that proposal handed, Nash’s proposal by no means got here up for a vote.

Social justice, public radio debate continues

Whereas Herndon’s price range proposal failed, he did persuade JFAC to attract a line in opposition to social justice spending.

The committee accepted price range language forbidding the four-year faculties to make use of any state cash “to assist range, fairness, inclusion or social justice ideology as a part of any scholar actions, golf equipment, occasions or organizations on campus.”

“(That is) fairly harsh language,” Ward-Engelking mentioned, throughout temporary debate on the proposal. “I believe we’re stepping exterior our realm right here.”

The committee inserted the language into the price range invoice, on a party-line 16-3 vote.

Herndon additionally pushed for language forbidding Boise State from funding Boise State Public Radio, arguing that public radio has a loyal and beneficiant donor base that covers most of its prices.

The talk rapidly turned to questions of editorial content material.

“I believe we ought to be prepared to listen to criticisms in addition to reward,” mentioned Rep. Matthew Bundy, R-Mountain House.

“This appropriation has nothing to do with squelching the First Modification,” mentioned Herndon. However Herndon additionally took challenge with a few of public radio’s editorial content material, on subjects corresponding to abortion, COVID-19 and world warming.

This movement failed on a 4-15 vote.

What’s subsequent for Idaho’s greater schooling price range

The upper schooling price range is one large piece of unfinished enterprise for the 2023 legislative session. However greater schooling budgets have run into resistance in previous classes — particularly on the Home ground.

And after the upper schooling price range passes the Legislature, the four-year faculties and the State Board of Schooling should set scholar tuition and charges for the following faculty yr. The State Board vote is anticipated in April.

At present, in-state tuition and charges vary from $8,396 on the U of I to $6,996 at Lewis-Clark. The faculties have frozen in-state, undergraduate tuition for 3 years.

However State Board officers and better schooling directors have indicated that the faculties might need to extend tuition subsequent yr. Inflation is one issue. So too, doubtlessly, is worker pay. In previous years, school and universities officers have complained that the state has not totally funded raises, forcing the faculties to make use of tuition {dollars} to choose up the distinction.

The upper schooling price range would totally fund campus pay raises, and JFAC’s proposal that interprets to a $1.20-per-hour elevate for many state workers, mentioned Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, JFAC’s Home co-chair.

In statements Thursday, the U of I and Boise State didn’t reply to questions concerning the price range’s implications for tuition and charges — and social justice packages.

“Our focus is the success of our college students and we are going to proceed to deal with this as we work inside the funding and legal guidelines established by our state legislature,” the U of I mentioned in its assertion.

In its assertion, Boise State mentioned it “appreciates” JFAC’s assist. “We’ll proceed to work with lawmakers and the State Board of Schooling on any subsequent steps in addition to intent language.”

Idaho State College didn’t instantly reply to requests for touch upon JFAC’s vote; via a spokesman, Lewis-Clark declined remark.

This story was initially posted on IdahoEdNews.org on March 9, 2023.

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