Community colleges in Idaho serve distinct geographic areas, but some of their financial needs cross the lines on a map.
At the Statehouse on Wednesday, the presidents of the four community colleges spoke about the challenges they face hiring and keeping staff. Several have also used their time before the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee to pitch building projects on Gov. Brad Little’s budget wish list.
Little recommended investing $54.3 million from the state in community colleges — which also get a significant portion of their money from local property taxes and tuition. The request for $54.3 million represents an increase of 4.8%.
Little’s budget includes a 5% pay raise for community college employees. But the state does not fully fund higher education salary increases, leaving colleges and universities to pay the balance.
For example, the College of Western Idaho is expected to receive $599,500 from the state for salary increases. But to offer 5% raises, CWI would have to find an additional $900,000, new chairman Gordon Jones told JFAC.
College of Southern Idaho President Dean Fisher stressed the need for higher compensation. When K-12 teachers in Idaho earn an average of $53,100, Fisher said he struggles to hire instructors at $46,000 or $47,000 a year.
Retention is another challenge. At the College of Eastern Idaho, the turnover rate is 20 percent, president Rick Aman told JFAC.
Three of the state’s four community colleges are in line to get state money for construction projects — through a separate budget request to fund construction statewide.
North Idaho College would receive $3.3 million for an aviation learning lab and a renovation project for a new community center. CWI would receive $10 million for a long-planned health sciences building. CEI’s $10 million would go to Future Tech, which would host courses on energy, environment and technology.
State money would not fully cover the CWI and CEI projects.
After twice going to voters for funding for the Health Sciences Building, to no avail, CWI changed its approach. If the state provides $10 million, CWI will cover the remainder of the $22.5 million cost using budget reserves, certificates of participation, or donations.
The IEC would still need about $12 million to cover Future Tech’s $42 million cost, and the balance could come from donors or the federal government, Aman said.
Wednesday’s presentations represented a kind of transition.
Jones appeared before budget editors during his 13and day as president of the CWI. He took some of his time to discuss his own career path – which has taken him from corporate America to Harvard University, to deanship at Boise State University and now to the largest two-year school in Idaho. He said he took the CWI position because he believes community colleges represent “where the ball moves in higher education,” providing a pathway to help graduates get better jobs. “We have a competitive advantage, no doubt.”
Compared to Jones, Michael Sebaaly is a relative veteran; he addressed lawmakers on the occasion of his 60and day as acting president of the NIC. Lawmakers had no questions for Sebaaly — even though a divided board fired chairman Rick MacLennan in September, NIC’s bond rating was downgraded in December, and the college’s accreditation is under review.
Representative Paul Amador addressed recent events, vaguely.
“I know there have been challenges over the past few months,” said Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene. “Let us know how we can help you.”
Little’s $50 million school grant program bill emerges
Another element of Gov. Brad Little’s education program surfaced on Wednesday.
Without discussion, the Senate Education Committee introduced a bill to create a $50 million Parent Empowerment Grant Program, an idea Little pitched in his state of the art address. January 10 statement.
Little wants to use federal coronavirus aid money to create the grant program. Parents could apply for grants of up to $1,000 per child or $3,000 per household, to cover a range of learning expenses, such as computers and internet access, textbooks or physical therapy or speech therapy.
Grants would be awarded based on income. For example, families with an income of $60,000 or less would have drawn on the grants first.
After Wednesday’s hearing, co-sponsor Lori Den Hartog said the bill is designed to duplicate the Strong Families, Strong Students Little grant program created in 2020.
Den Hartog, R-Meridian, co-sponsored a bill in 2021 to extend grants — but that bill contained controversial language that would have created a private scholarship program. This language does not appear in the bill presented on Wednesday.
Wednesday’s vote means the bill will return to Senate Education for a full hearing, and committee chairman Steven Thayn said that would likely happen next week.
“We’re going to try to do that right away,” said Thayn, R-Emmett.
‘The elephant in the room’: College presidents guard against another anti-indoctrination session
The day after Boise State University President Marlene Tromp was grilled at the JFAC, college presidents came to the House Education Committee on Wednesday, ready to answer some tougher questions.
Tromp and the presidents of Idaho’s other four-year public colleges and universities have touted their institutions’ accomplishments over the past year. But they also all, uninvited, appeared to be guarding against another legislative session sidestepped by Republican lawmakers’ concerns about critical race theory and leftist indoctrination in schools, concerns that have led to cuts. budgets in higher education last year.
Presidents have pushed back against allegations of indoctrination.
“We don’t teach un-American ideas at an institution that I’m president of,” Kevin Satterlee of Idaho State University told the committee.
But the presidents also stressed that they had listened to the Legislature’s concerns and responded concretely to ensure they complied with a new law targeting critical race theory.
Addressing the ‘elephant in the room’, Lewis-Clark State College President Cynthia Pemberton said: ‘If we find that there is factual evidence to support a concern, damn it. , we will answer it.”
Here’s how the presidents say they responded.
Lewis Clark: Pemberton said the new law targeting critical race theory, House Bill 377, has sparked conversations with faculty to ensure compliance and efforts to increase the visibility of the college’s system for handling student complaints.
She also pointed to a campus-wide survey which she said found the Lewis-Clark campus climate to be “healthy and conducive to a wide range of perspectives, views and opinions.”
Boise State: Tromp said his administration has also worked to ensure compliance with the law and announced the launch of his university’s new “Institute for the Advancement of American Values” this semester. The institute will begin with a lecture by Jason Riley, an economically conservative opinion columnist for the Wall Street Journal.
State of Idaho: Satterlee said his university verified that public funds and mandatory fees were not going to diversity and inclusion programs; rather, they are funded by non-universal fees. He championed an academic freedom forum held on campus, a panel to discuss compliance with HB 377, and ISU channels for receiving student complaints.
University of Idaho: “Last year, HB 377 caused us to re-examine some of our teaching, including limited upper division classes to discuss critical race theory,” said President C. Scott Green.
Green said the university verified it was complying with the law by consulting with Holley Troxell, the Boise law firm that found no wrongdoing in a Boise State diversity course that sparked a complaint from an as-yet-unnamed lawmaker.
Reactions and questions from legislators: Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, thanked the presidents for “joining in and having this discussion” on HB 377 — was the response to 377.
And after Tuesday’s grilling in JFAC from Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, Ehardt was the only House Education member to ask a question related to indoctrination. She only asked Tromp for more details about his “Institute for the Advancement of American Values.”
On the contrary, a group of committee members congratulated the chairs for their work.
The questions focused on the U of I’s efforts to bolster its cybersecurity programs, its January 2022 move of some law courses to a former Concordia Law School building in Boise, and an appeal from Representative Dorothy Moon, R -Stanley, to strengthen the university’s mining programs. .
Moon cited a recent story from The Atlantic on Idaho’s wealthy cobalt stores, calling for more mining and mining education in the state.
“We need you to open this mining school. … Seriously, we cannot be beholden to the Chinese metals market. We have to support ourselves,” Moon said, addressing Green.
Green defended the university’s “robust” mining program, saying its graduates are often employed in the field, but said “I’m willing to invest with you” in bolstering U of I offerings.
Workforce development has also taken center stage, leading Satterlee to say the legislature needs to invest more in the state of Idaho if it wants to produce more nurse practitioners and nurse practitioners. medical assistants amid healthcare worker shortages. And while Tromp didn’t ask for more money to fund additional programs, she said Idaho had a “thirst” for more engineers than Boise State could help quench, when invited by a question.
The presidents will appear again on Wednesday afternoon, before the Senate Education Committee.
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