“An Unacceptable Trend that Must be Reversed”
Boise, ID—Idaho ranks last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in per-student funding, according to the annual Rankings and Estimates released by the National Education Association. The state provided $6,747 of funding for each K-12 public school student in 2018-19; an increase of $8 per student over the previous year, when the state also placed at the very bottom of the rankings.
“Idaho students deserve better—a lot better,” says IEA President Layne McInelly. “Consistently ranking at or near the bottom in terms of the state’s investment in our public school students is an unacceptable trend that must be reversed.”
The annual NEA Rankings and Estimates are widely considered the most accurate measure of public education enrollment, expenditures, educator compensation, and other important metrics. The current report also provides estimates for the 2019-20 school year, showing Idaho with an estimated $50 per student increase, or 0.74%.
Idaho has struggled to adequately invest in education for many years. The tax shift of 2006 left the state without a consistent and reliable funding source for its public schools. A combination of the ill-conceived Luna Laws and the Great Recession led to devastating cuts to public education for several years. When the economy recovered, Idaho’s legislature opted to pass a large tax cut in 2018 rather than enacting a difference-making investment in public education.
“The COVID-19 public health crisis has created uncertainty for children and families in Idaho, and we call on our elected officials to adequately fund our schools and provide the stability students need in the coming months and years,” says McInelly. “Idahoans strongly support public education, yet the Idaho legislature has shortchanged its students for too long. Lawmakers should be embarrassed by a last-place ranking in per-pupil funding.”
The report shows that Idaho has made incremental progress in one key area of education funding. The average teacher salary has moved up to 41st (from 43rd the previous year). Much of the increase has been from efforts to improve starting teacher pay. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a delay in the implementation of the Advanced Professional Educator legislation that would have addressed the critical issue of veteran teacher pay and teacher retention.
Idaho has the sixth-highest student-to-teacher ratio in the latest rankings. An average of 18.5 students to every teacher at the K-12 level indicates class sizes that are unwieldy and makes it difficult to provide individualized instruction and address the mental and emotional needs of students.