Key K-12 funding spreadsheet goes public — finally

School administrators — and everyday Idahoans with an appetite for spreadsheets — can finally test-drive a proposed rewrite of the state’s K-12 funding formula.

The state has gone public with the spreadsheet that shows how a different formula would affect individual school districts. Idahoans can download the spreadsheet from the Idaho Legislature’s website. From there, users can tweak the proposed formula, and see how changes in the state’s formula would impact their local district.

The spreadsheet is the guts of the work from state-funded consultants, who have been working with legislators on a funding formula rewrite.

Consultants unveiled the spreadsheet on Sept. 24, sort of.

During a public meeting of the Legislature’s school funding formula committee, consultants walked lawmakers through the spreadsheet. They showed lawmakers how local numbers would change with any change in the formula — such as providing more or less money for English language learners, or more or less money to teach K-3 students.

As lawmakers tested out possible changes, educators and lobbyists in the audience could only watch the exercise on projector screens. They could not access the spreadsheet for themselves — but at least one lawmaker, Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, was able to access his own copy of the spreadsheet while watching from the audience.

During a break, Education Commission of the States consultant Michael Griffith told Idaho Education News the spreadsheet could be available in a week. That didn’t happen, and Idaho Education News filed an unsuccessful public records request for the document.

The consultants’ work and the Legislature’s decisions will have a direct impact on schools and students. They will affect the way the state distributes the bulk of Idaho’s K-12 dollars. Public schools received close to $1.8 billion for 2018-19, by far the largest chunk of the state’s budget.

The funding formula committee — which includes 10 lawmakers, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra and State Board of Education President Linda Clark — has spent three years studying the state’s complex method of divvying up K-12 dollars. The committee wants to shift to a streamlined model that will be more predictable and easier to understand.

But any shift in the funding formula creates winners and losers — and the spreadsheet illustrates the ways districts can receive more money or less money under a new formula. As a result, lawmakers have been debating ways to hold schools “harmless,” and avoid funding cuts during a transition period.

The committee expects to bring a proposal to the 2019 Legislature.

Idaho has not rewritten its K-12 formula since 1994.


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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