Idaho’s Public School Funding Formula Committee completed its work at a meeting on November 26. They unanimously approved motions to send the most recent funding formula model to the House and Senate Education Committees of the upcoming legislative session. A subcommittee is currently working on draft legislation that will accompany the funding formula model and assist the germane committees in their work. That draft legislation is expected to be completed by December 17. The legislature will have final say on any changes to how Idaho funds public education, and the debate over both how to disperse education money and how much to allocate will be one of the most interesting aspects of the 2019 legislative session.
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, opined that the latest model is “a powerful tool that is adaptive and has enough dials available for the germane committees.” The dials he references are the extra weighting that can be given for a variety of circumstances, including special education, at-risk students, English language learners, gifted and talented students, and an adjustment based on taxable property wealth. The new formula anticipates a shift from an attendance-based model to an enrollment-based model.
Committee co-chair Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, noted the importance of building from the bottom up in developing the proposed new funding formula. He also thanked the education stakeholder groups for their input and indicated “our listening isn’t done yet.”
There were a few interesting pieces of information coming out of the final meeting.
- Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, requested clarification on the “annual growth cap” provision of the model. Rather than having fast-growing districts ask for a waiver, he suggested that per-pupil growth be factored in prior to the annual growth cap of 7.5% being applied.
- Committee co-chair Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, who is part of the subcommittee developing the draft legislation, indicated the policy which led to the development of the Career Ladder salary allocation plan is expected to remain in place.
- Michael Griffith of Education Commission of the States, who has been the primary developer of the new model, told the committee that the national average for the percentage of education funding devoted to teacher compensation is between 60-65%. Idaho is currently at about 56%, but Griffith theorized that the percentage will increase as local districts are given more decision-making power over their budgets.
“The Idaho Education Association will continue to work with legislators and other stakeholder groups to ensure that students have the resources they need and that our teachers and other educators are compensated like the professionals they are,” says IEA President Kari Overall. “While there are some interesting concepts in the potential new funding formula, it is imperative that the state also increases the amount of its investment in public education. Relying on local levies and eliminating or reducing programs are not sustainable solutions.”