Recap of the Last Meeting
Idaho’s Public School Funding Formula Committee met again September 24, with the IEA legislative team among the interested parties in attendance. The Committee received another presentation from third-party vendor ECS (Education Commission of the States), and for the first time had at their disposal a working model of the ECS Excel spreadsheet that allowed them to experiment with adjustments to the various “weights” being considered.
While the legislature will ultimately make the final decisions, ECS did make initial recommendations regarding the extra weighting that might be a part of the formula.
English Language Learners 0.35
Special Education Students 0.5**
Gifted and Talented $100 per GT student
*Idaho currently uses Alternative Schools to signify at-risk students, but ECS recommends using Title 1 designations, or better yet a more effective metric yet to be determined.
**ECS recommends growing the SPED weighting from 0.5 to 1.0 over time once the state develops a more nuanced system for identifying the needs of special education students
What the Committee realized as they started working through various adjustments of the model is that the weighting approach will create winners and losers among the state’s districts. For example, some districts will fare better if SPED (Special Education) weights are increased but might see their allocations drop if ELL (English Language Learners) is weighted more heavily. Inherent with that concept is that some committee members might see political fallout if school districts within their legislative district saw a drop in funding.
What might help negate that possible consequence is the recommendation that a “hold harmless” provision be included in the new formula. Hold harmless would prevent districts from getting less funding than the previous year and would be phased out over a three to five year span. ECS also recommends a cap of 7.5-10% be placed on how much additional funding districts can receive. These two provisions would help smooth out the transition period, but would also likely require additional funding to be effective.
Thus far the Committee has mostly avoided addressing the idea of additional money being added to the system, preferring to focus on the distribution model itself. They did see one example from ECS about how an additional $100 million might impact the formula and various districts. That figure was used because it represents a rough estimate of how much has been added to the education budget each of the last few years. Funding for education is determined by the legislature, with particular influence being held by JFAC (Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee). The Committee also decided to keep technology funding as a line item outside of the new formula. The IEA and ISBA had asked them to consider including technology within the formula.
What to Look for in the Next Meeting
When the committee reconvenes at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 25, they will be moving another step closer to issuing the recommendations they will present to the House and Senate Education Committees. Committee members Horman, Mortimer, Den Hartog, and Clark have agreed to work with Brooke Brourman of the legislative services staff on a presentation of the recommendations. Still to be determined is the exact structure of the recommendations, and whether or not they will be accompanied by draft legislation.
There is still a fair amount of uncertainty regarding the future of the Career Ladder allocation structure going forward, although there seems to be a consensus in including educator compensation within the formula (it would make up about 70% of formula funds). How to deal with Master Educator Premiums is also unclear. MEPs are folded into the Career Ladder but have yet to receive funding from the legislature. The Funding Formula Committee co
It is expected that there will be another public comment period between the meeting on October 25 and the Committee’s November meeting. Since the commission of the Public School Funding Formula Committee is scheduled to expire at the end of November, they will be investigating procedures for extending that time to allow presentations to the legislature in early 2019. The Committee has been working for about two years on re-working the formula by which Idaho distributes funds to schools and students, which has remained unchanged for more than 20 years.