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Magic Valley teachers ask districts to avoid cutting student resources amid revenue shortfall
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Magic Valley teachers ask districts to avoid cutting student resources amid revenue shortfall

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In this file photo, National Education Association Director Peggy Hoy, standing right, askes Idaho politicians questions Dec. 9, 2019, at Idaho Joe's in Twin Falls.

TWIN FALLS — Teachers in the Magic Valley are asking school districts to avoid cutting student resources in response to state revenue shortfalls.

Presidents of 11 regional education associations signed a letter Monday warning that plans to cut certain areas of local budgets could “de-stabilize school environments” and “deny students access to vital services.”

“Now is not the time to hit the panic button and start slashing education budgets,” the letter says. “When the school year resumes this fall, in whatever form it may take, students must have access to the fundamental resources to guarantee their health and safety.

“We ask school districts to lead, do right by Idaho children and approve budgets that provide stable and equitable services and support for our students.”

Last week, Idaho Gov. Brad Little sent a memo to districts that outlined a plan to cut next year’s state K-12 education budget by 5%, or about $99 million. The memo was first reported by Idaho Education News.

The cuts for K-12 are part of a plan to reduce general fund spending by 5% for all state agencies.

Legislators recently approved increasing K-12 spending by 4.6% for 2021, and the proposed cuts would offset those gains. Little said education remains his “highest priority” but cuts are necessary to balance the state budget as revenues fall short of projections due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Earlier this year, the Legislature passed significant investments for public schools for FY 2021,” Little wrote. “Unfortunately, we now face a new economic reality caused by the pandemic that was not anticipated when the budget was set.”

Proposed cuts to the K-12 budget include freezing teacher salaries, suspending administrator raises and reducing classroom technology spending. Little said he will issue an executive order at the beginning of the next fiscal year (July 1) that will define the official cuts.

The letter from education association presidents urged districts to absorb state-level spending cuts in areas that least affect students. They proposed using federal emergency relief money and local “rainy day” funds to offset lost revenue.

“If a global pandemic doesn’t qualify as a ‘rainy day’, we don’t know what does,” the letter says. “These funds should be used prior to any cuts to personnel and the services they provide.”

Idaho’s National Education Association director Peggy Hoy, who works in the Twin Falls School District, said financial considerations are different for each district, but administrators need to maintain the resources necessary for student learning and social-emotional well-being.

“We want to continue to build the schools our students deserve,” Hoy said. “That is a school that has opportunities and programs for our students to grow and be successful.

Presidents of 60 local education associations throughout Idaho signed on to the letter. Those from Region 4 include Blaine County, Buhl, Cassia County, Filer, Gooding, Hansen, Jerome, Kimberly, Minidoka County, Wendell and Twin Falls.

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