Linda Clark jfac

Linda Clark, president of the state Board of Education, left, and Matt Freeman, the board's executive director, center, kick off a week of education budget hearings in the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Monday morning, Jan. 21, 2019.

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Today is a state holiday — Martin Luther King Jr./Idaho Human Rights Day — and while state offices are closed, the Idaho Legislature still is in session. That’s because the Legislature doesn’t take holidays when it’s in session; it’ll be going on President’s Day, too. There will be festivities in the Capitol, including the state’s official commemoration of the holiday at noon in the Capitol Rotunda.

Meanwhile, JFAC is in session and has kicked off a full week of education budget hearings with an overview from state Board of Education President Linda Clark. She noted that Idaho is unique in its governance of education, as one of only two states in which a single board oversees education from kindergarten through graduate school. “We believe that there is tremendous power and efficiency in a single board which governs a system that is greater than (the) sum of its parts,” Clark told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. Compared to other states, she said, “With a single board, we are able to do many things that they could only do with memorandums of understanding,” sometimes between up to eight separate governing boards.

The state Board of Education oversees almost $2.3 billion, Clark noted, “about 62.9 percent of the entire state budget.” I’ll have more here later today. Also this morning, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will hold budget hearings on the budgets for the Office of the State Board of Education, systemwide programs, and each of Idaho’s four community colleges.

Clark noted that public schools account for 48.9 percent of state general fund spending in fiscal year 2019, “roughly the same proportional share as 22 years ago in 1998.” At the same time, college and universities in 2019 account for about 8.1 percent of the general fund budget, down significantly from their 1998 share of 12.4 percent.

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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