by Kurtis Workman
Press Staff Writer
The American Falls School District will not receive money from a bill that has passed the Idaho House of Representatives to replace funding lost when Idaho voters repealed the 2011 Students Come First law.
American Falls School District Superintendent Dr. Ron Bolinger said the reason American Falls will not receive money from the bill is due to successful planning.
“There are several school districts that have cannibalized themselves to stay afloat. They have done this by operating under their teacher allocations,” Bolinger said.
When the Students Come First law was repealed school districts were forced to cope with a mid-year funding loss. The state gave districts permission to operate below their teacher allocations. This allowed districts to hire roughly 10 percent fewer teachers than they were receiving money for, and use that portion of the state allocation to balance budgets.
“In our case we opted for shortening the school year through furlough days, rather than hiring fewer teachers. We looked at our schools, and what we are trying to provide our students, and decided on keeping class sizes smaller.” said Bolinger.
Other districts with larger needs and other difficulties were not able to avoid using the teacher allocation exemption to pay other bills. Bolinger noted there are several districts in the state that had to resort to shortening their school year, and hiring fewer teachers.
The bill would replace $30 million dollars to school districts that chose the option of employing fewer teachers. The bill now moves to the Senate.
Bolinger explained the “fix it” bill is a one-time replacement of funding for school districts Bolinger characterized as “decimated”. Bolinger said the need to replace money is a symptom of a larger problem with education across the state.
“This is endemic of where education is going. Districts are using Draconian measures to balance budgets. The state has taken over a large portion of funding for the schools, which is a huge albatross to hang around their necks, but that support has started to dwindle. As that money slowly continues to go away we are slowly starving and districts have to do something. This bill is a fair thing for the state to do to bring those affected districts closer to whole,” said Bolinger.
Bolinger said the American Falls School District not being included in the replacement funding is a product of strong planning by the school administrators, teachers and district trustees, but also the support the school district receives from the community.
“We are so thankful that our patrons are supportive and understand what is needed to give the students the best possible education,” said Bolinger.