Idaho schools get lackluster grades in new Boise State survey

Idahoans give the state’s school system a mediocre report card in a new statewide survey.

But they feel better about their local schools.

“In sum, Idahoans see room for improvement in the quality of K-12 education in the state,” Boise State University researchers said in their annual Idaho Public Policy Survey, released Thursday.

Researchers asked more than 1,000 survey respondents two similar questions — one that addressed the state’s K-12 system as a whole, and a second addressing local K-12 schools.

The gaps were significant.

Quality of education, Idaho Quality of local schools
Excellent 4.1 9.9
Good 27.8 35.2
Fair 37.1 31.6
Poor 27.3 17
Don’t know/refused 3.8 6.4

The results aren’t necessarily a surprise, said report co-author Jeffrey Lyons, survey research director for Boise State’s Idaho Policy Institute. Researchers see a similar trend when they ask voters to rate Congress — and then ask about their local representatives. But the Boise State numbers suggest local educators are doing a good job of engaging with patrons, he said.

As in previous years, respondents rated education as the most important issue facing Idaho.

Other survey results:

Education beyond high school. Thirty-five percent of respondents said Idaho’s K-12 system is doing an excellent or good job of preparing high school graduates to continue their education. When respondents were asked about their local schools, the number was slightly higher: 38 percent. (Click here to read Idaho Education News’ recent in-depth series on this topic.)

Pre-K. Sixty-one percent of respondents said the state should spend more on early education. (Idaho is among a handful of states without state-funded pre-K.)

When respondents had to make tradeoffs, the numbers changed. Fifty-four percent said they would pay more in taxes to bankroll pre-K. But only 30 percent said they would support pre-K spending if it came at the expense of other education programs.

Taxes and the budget. A strong majority of respondents, 68 percent, said the level of Idaho’s taxes are about right. A plurality, 43 percent, said the size of the state budget should remain roughly the same.

The state of the state. While respondents are lukewarm about Idaho schools, their prevailing mood is positive. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said the state is heading in the right direction.

The economy tends to be a driving factor in this type of overview question, and Idahoans are generally upbeat about the state’s economy, Lyons said.

Boise State conducted the survey from Dec. 10 to Jan. 8, contacting 1,004 Idahoans on cell phones and landlines. The survey has a 3.1 percent margin for error.

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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