Idaho should plow its record-setting surplus of nearly $900 million into its underfunded schools, the Idaho Education Association said Wednesday.
“Idaho’s elected officials have a golden opportunity to finally address public school funding in a meaningful way,” IEA president Layne McInelly said in a statement Wednesday. “The record budget surplus should be directed to Idaho’s public schools, which continue to be under-resourced in a state that willingly ranks last in per-student funding.”
Interestingly, the union statement did not address teacher salaries — although the Legislature has funded raises through its career ladder pay plan since 2015, including $44.9 million this year. However, McInelly listed several other funding needs:
- Reducing class sizes, which are sixth highest in the nation.
- Pay raises for school support staff. “Idaho needs to pay a living wage to custodial workers, bus drivers, paraeducators, nutrition staff, and substitute teachers or further risk losing valuable members of the education team to other jobs.”
- Hiring counselors and psychologists “at a time when students need support for mental and emotional health more than ever.”
- College- and career-readiness programs that “will pay off in attracting jobs, growing our economy, and achieving future prosperity.”
- Repairing or replacing outdated or unsafe schools.
- Property tax relief. “Too many Idaho schools, especially in rural areas, are reliant on local levies and bonds, creating a burden on local taxpayers and inequities for students based on where they live.”
Tax collections again beat projections in June — by $84.4 million — state officials said Tuesday. This means the state closed the 2020-21 budget year on June 30 with nearly a $900 million surplus.