BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — More than $1 million could be invested in training opportunities to help teachers identify and work with dyslexic students in Idaho schools.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra has proposed a current fiscal year supplemental budget request of $1.5 million for training. The request comes after Idaho lawmakers last session passed a bill to establish screening, interventions and professional development to serve children with dyslexia.
“Early literacy — ensuring students learn to read in third grade so they can read to learn for the rest of their lives — remains a top priority for my department and for districts and schools across the board. Idaho,” Ybarra said in a press release.
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Training will begin once the additional request is approved by the Legislative Assembly, said Kristin Rodine, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.
The new dyslexia law, which lawmakers passed after the Idaho Statesman’s report on dyslexic students’ difficulties in school, defined dyslexia and dyslexia screening tools, and set out a phased approach to add screening measures, interventions and professional development for teachers.
According to the bill, by the start of the 2023-2024 school year, teachers and coaches who work with students in kindergarten through fifth grade will need to have received professional development “specific to the teaching and intervention with students with characteristics of dyslexia. need professional development on the characteristics of dyslexia.
The bill included a tax memo of $97,000 for a full-time employee of the state Department of Education to implement the legislation and provide information and resources.
Rodine said the bill “requests funding to implement the new dyslexia requirements, but no funding has been made.”
“That’s why Superintendent Ybarra is making this additional request,” she said in an email to the Idaho Statesman.
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YBARRA’S 2024 BUDGET FOCUS ON SALARIES AND PERSONNEL ISSUES
Ybarra also submitted his budget request for fiscal year 2024. His proposal includes an increase of about 6.9% over last year’s appropriations for a total of about $2.5 billion from the fund. general of the state.
“Idaho’s economy is strong, and the best way to ensure it stays strong is to invest in the future of Idaho students,” Ybarra said in a statement. “With a record budget surplus, now is the perfect time.”
The budget calls for $59.1 million in teacher pay increases and $18.6 million to increase pay and staffing levels for classified staff, which includes paraprofessionals and food service workers.
Ybarra also proposed increased operational funding to meet health insurance costs and inflation. Last session, lawmakers passed a bill to allow school districts to enroll in the state health insurance plan to reduce insurance costs for staff members, but funding has been insufficient for many districts.
About $10 million would go to professional development, per Ybarra’s request.
“Our schools and districts have greater needs now as we battle the lasting impacts of the long pandemic, including learning loss,” Ybarra said. “The students most affected are our special populations, including English language learners, special education, and low-income students. Our mandate is to ensure that we serve these students well.
Ybarra was first elected superintendent in 2014. She lost the Republican primary that year to Debbie Critchfield, the former chair of the State Board of Education. His term will therefore end before the Legislative Assembly considers the application.
The budget requests come after Idaho lawmakers approved a bill that provided $410 million in sales tax revenue for education last week. Education groups and teachers have called the investment a positive step in addressing the state’s underfunding of education.