Gov. Brad Little 9-11-20 at presser on school funding by Brian

Gov. Brad Little speaks during a news conference on school funding on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020 in the Idaho Capitol’s Lincoln Auditorium.

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Idaho will tap federal CARES Act funds to make back up the $99 million it’s cut from the public school budget, plus another $50 million that will go directly to Idaho families to help parents cover school-related expenses for their kids amid the pandemic. Gov. Brad Little announced the decisions Friday at a news conference in the Lincoln Auditorium at the state Capitol; you can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Saturday's print edition of the Idaho Press.

“Supporting K-12 education in Idaho is our constitutional and moral responsibility, and it's my top priority as governor," Little declared. "My goal is to make Idaho a place where our children choose to stay and for those who left to choose to return. We simply cannot meet that goal without a strong public education system in place. ... The stresses on our kids, families and educators right now are enormous."

There was some confusion during the press conference as to whether or not the restored funds include the $26 million cut from teacher salaries as part of the freezing of the teacher career ladder; that was the single largest chunk of the $99 million school budget cut. Officials clarified afterward that that money all will be restored, but instead of going out to school districts with strings attached as salary-based apportionment, it'll all go out as discretionary funds. That gives school districts latitude on how they use the funds.

Little said, "I anticipate a lot of it will be for additional help," while some districts will use the money to keep teacher pay competitive. "We'll rely on the school districts to do the right thing."

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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