COEUR D’ALENE – Concerned educators and community members met with lawmakers at Coeur d’Alene High School on Saturday. They talked about a list of proposals designed to slash about $100 million from Idaho’s education budget.
Idaho’s education budget is riding on whether or not President Obama signs the federal stimulus bill into law. Both the Senate and the House passed the bill on Friday. A projected $346 million would be funneled into Idaho’s education system if the bill becomes law.
It’s a scenario that educators hope will play out, because the alternative isn’t pretty.
“I love teaching and I love teenagers and its a joy,” said Kathleen Sayler, a teacher at Coeur d’Alene High.
Sayler and others packed into the auditorium at Coeur d’Alene High School with similar concerns.
“It isn’t easy to keep people in education when they make less money and work extremely hard to do their job,” said Sayler.
Proposed budget cuts have Sayler, her fellow teachers and parents like Tamara Poelstra, concerned about what could happen to the education system.
“I’m afraid that the heart of the education system will be cut out of Idaho,” said Poelstra.
Idaho, like Washington, is trying to cope with its budget shortfall. In the process, state education could be dealt a major blow.
“I was stunned, I was just stunned to hear they were going to take away the ability for teachers to negotiate,” said Poelstra. “Looking from a parents point of view, that would also open up the door for teachers to be able to walk away.”
A bill introduced by Coeur d’Alene Republican Bob Nonni, includes several proposals that concern educators.
Some of those proposals: A one year freeze on experience movement on the salary schedule, elimination of early retirement, 35 to 40 administrative position cuts along with salary and schedule cuts.
“There’s a concern that it’s really strong medicine that will not just address the immediate illness that we have but will create further problems down the road,” said State Representative George Sayler.
Senators are hopeful that the stimulus bill will kick in and relieve some of the pressure on the state’s budget and eliminate the need for Nonni’s proposal.
“The bill will be put in a drawer and will not see the light of day again as long as the timing is right so we can take advantage of the federal money,” said State Senator John Goedde.
It’s something Idaho teachers and parents would like to see happen.
“I’m concerned about my kids, I’m really afraid,” said Poelstra. “I do the best for my children to make sure they get the best education that they can.”
It’s not sure when Idaho will see some of the federal stimulus money. Until then it’s just wait and see.