IEA: Record-setting surplus provides ‘golden opportunity’ for underfunded schools

Idaho should plow its record-setting surplus of nearly $900 million into its underfunded schools, the Idaho Education Association said Wednesday.

Layne McInelly

“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  • Repairing or replacing outdated or unsafe schools.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.

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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