Idaho’s Public School Funding Chronically Falls Short

Our children deserve so much more than crumbling schools and patchy solutions

The Issue:

More than 130 years ago, the Idaho Constitution mandated the Legislature to “establish and maintain a general, uniform, and thorough system of public, free common schools.” 

For decades, our Legislature has failed at this basic task. Idaho’s public schools are continually underfunded, forcing local district leaders to make do with a patchwork of funding that creates strategic uncertainty and inequity. 

Why It Matters:

The problem is enormous. According to the January 2022 K-12 School Buildings Report by the Idaho Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations, it would take an estimated $847 million to get all of Idaho’s public school buildings up to “good” condition — not excellent, but good. That number does not reflect the many other needs of Idaho’s public school students, just the buildings they study in every day.

Recent record investments in K-12 public schools are steps in the right direction, but they aren’t enough to give Idaho students the facilities and educational services they deserve. Current economic conditions, combined with the deficits left by decades of underfunding, mean recent investments barely allow school districts to keep up with inflation.

Why We Care

Under our current ad hoc system, students in areas with fewer resources receive less funding for their education than students in wealthier areas. That’s because school districts are forced to ask voters to approve millions, and sometimes billions, in bond measures and special levies. When those votes fail, Idaho students are left behind — especially those in rural areas.

By the Numbers

1 Billion

The amount of bond measures Idaho voters were asked to approve in 2022.


Year the Idaho Supreme Court ruled the state’s public school funding scheme to be insufficient and unconstitutional.


In an Idaho Statesman poll, 58% of respondents said Idaho spends too little on education.

Take Action:

How you can take action: Poll after poll reveals how out of step the Idaho Legislature is with the people they represent on this issue. You can help bring equality to all Idaho students by telling your legislators they have a constitutional obligation to provide proper funding and that underfunding is unacceptable.

School Funding FAQs

What’s wrong with asking local taxpayers to meet the needs of local schools?

Nothing, if those needs are expected or beyond the scope of typical fundamental expenses of offering a quality education. Meeting those above-and-beyond needs is the true purpose of bonds and levies. 

Instead, bonds and levies have become a regular occurrence. Recent ballot measures asked taxpayers to pay for: 

  • New buildings in districts struggling to meet the needs of rapid growth
  • Salaries and benefits for paraprofessionals who support Idaho students
  • Buying and maintaining school buses

When voters reject these fundamental expenses, it creates a dynamic of haves and have-nots among school districts. District administrators are often forced to sacrifice needed classroom investments for the sake of serviceable buildings or other fundamental operating costs.

What is the ballot box supermajority requirement for facilities bond measures? Does it matter?

In Idaho, school facilities bond measures must pass with a two-thirds supermajority at the ballot box. A 2022 audit by the Idaho Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations found that “the current two-thirds vote threshold poses a significant barrier to bond approval.”

What would it take to fully fund public education in Idaho?

The Idaho Constitution outlines the minimum standards Idaho’s education funding must meet, and our Legislature is falling far short of its constitutional obligations. 

Idaho taxpayers have overwhelmingly demanded more public education funding, stronger schools, better-paid staff, and additional student services — but the Legislature is not listening. Our public education system will be “fully funded” when the educational outcomes public schools deliver meet the standards taxpayers demand.

How does underfunding hurt Idaho students?

When school districts are forced to ask voters to pay for basic expenses, often unsuccessfully, real investment in student success suffers. Our students increasingly need mental health services and our dedicated educators are not compensated adequately. It becomes close to impossible to meet such needs when the Legislature does not fully fund our schools.

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