Education Week: Idaho lags in K-12 spending, and struggles with funding equity

Another day, another dismal report on Idaho school spending.

This time, Education Week did the rankings — placing Idaho dead last in the nation on overall school finance.

In a nutshell, Education Week criticized Idaho for what it spends, and how it spends it.

“Idaho has one of the nation’s lowest percentages of districts that are at or above the national average in per-pupil spending,” Alex Harwin and Sterling C. Lloyd wrote in an article posted Tuesday. ”The state also exhibits inequitable spending patterns such as funding more affluent districts at higher rates.”

Idaho ranked third worst in the nation for school spending. Idaho also ranked fourth worst in funding equity.

By faring so poorly on both metrics, Idaho is an outlier. States that scored well on Education Week’s spending metrics tended to score poorly on equity — and vice versa, Harwin and Lloyd wrote.

The two low scores combine for an overall D-minus grade for Idaho, and the lowest overall score in the nation.

For each of the past five years, Idaho lawmakers have boosted K-12 spending by more than $100 million annually. And for more than three years, Idaho lawmakers have discussed a funding overhaul designed to address some of the equity issues Education week raises in its report. Lawmakers have looked at making a shift to an enrollment-based funding formula, with added funding for economically disadvantaged students and other at-risk student groups. The 2019 Legislature looked at the idea but did not rewrite the formula.

The Education Week study comes on the heels of two other grim reports on school finance.

A week ago, the U.S. Census Bureau said Idaho again ranked No. 50 in the nation in per-pupil spending in 2017.

On Tuesday, the Pew Charitable Trusts said Idaho’s school spending has not fully recovered from recession-era cuts. Idaho’s inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending has fallen since 2008, according to the report.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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