The Census Bureau recently released its latest school funding figures, and the news was not good for Idaho: Out of the 50 states and District of Columbia, our state ranked next-to-last at $6,931 in per-pupil spending in 2007-2008.
The national average was $10,259. Only Utah spent less per student, at $5,765. The rest of our surrounding states invested much more per child: Wyoming, $13,840; Montana, $9,666; Oregon, $9,558; Washington, $9,009; and Nevada, $8,285.
It will be interesting – and probably distressing – to see what happens to Idaho’s rankings a few years from now. Unlike the 2010 Utah Legislature, which managed to hold the line on K-12 spending despite a billion-dollar overall budget shortfall, Idaho lawmakers slashed nearly $130 million from our state’s K-12 education investment.
Idahoans concerned about our state’s disinvestment in education can do several things:
Plan to vote November 2 for people who share your values, especially for the key positions of state Superintendent of Public Education and governor, but also in races for the state legislature. Idahoans across the political spectrum strongly support public education, but we often choose elected officials who routinely balance the state budget on the backs of children and educators. Help your family and friends register and vote this fall, too.
Email Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch to encourage passage of the education jobs funding bill now awaiting action in the Senate. If you have a few more minutes, you can call Senator Crapo – considered a swing vote on the bill – or share your story on his Facebook page and ask for his support of this bill. (Rep. Walt Minnick deserves thanks for his “yes” vote in the House, too.) Although it will not improve Idaho’s national status, the legislation will help keep educators, firefighters, and others on the job this fall so our nation’s economic recovery can continue.
Become involved in the Raise Your Hand community coalition campaign. You can join with other local parents, grandparents, business owners, and community leaders to ensure strong funding for Idaho’s public schools.
Idaho is too great to shortchange its future. Working together, we can do better for our children.
Update – July 15, 2010: In the Idaho Statesman today, opinion page editor Kevin Richert notes, “No one is talking that much about schools. … But 51 percent of the budget goes to K-12 – along with some 275,000 students. Those are a lot of kids and grandkids of Idaho voters. Voters may not have noticed that the 2010-11 budget year started on July 1. They probably don't care about how the parties spin their economic soothsaying skills. But they do care – or will, when the academic year starts – that public schools sustained a $128.5 million budget cut. That translates to more than $460 for every kid in K-12. I'm going to repeat that number until voters (or candidates) pick up (on) it.” Read more.