Education groups issue recommendations to funding formula committee

Three of Idaho’s prominent education organizations have issued recommendations to the Legislature’s Public School Funding Formula Interim Committee as the committee prepares to issue another new draft this week.

On Friday, leaders of the Idaho Education Association, Idaho School Boards Association and Idaho Association of School Administrators signed a letter saying they support the move away from an attendance-based method of funding to an enrollment-based formula.

“Districts, charters and schools must budget and have resources available for each student enrolled, regardless of the number of the days they attend,” the groups wrote.

The funding formula committee is expected to issue another draft and discuss its final report when it meets at 8 a.m. Thursday in Room EW 42 of the Statehouse.

Formed during the 2016 legislative session, the funding formula committee is charged with modernizing and rewriting Idaho’s complicated school funding formula, which hasn’t been rewritten since 1994.

The interim committee’s work is important because education is the state’s largest expense and the funding formula drives how the state sends about $1.8 billion in general funding spending to school districts and charters.

In their letter Thursday, education leaders also delved into specific budget earmarks — often called “line items” in budget lingo.

The education groups advocated for keeping money for salaries outside of the new funding formula. The groups said the existing salary law already gives districts flexibility.

“In addition, we all worked very hard to establish the Career Ladder (salary law),” they wrote. “We won’t even know for sure how successful it is until it has been fully implemented. In the meantime, we believe we are on the right path and would like to see it continue.”

Finally, the groups called for leaving several additional line items — including discretionary funding, technology funding, literacy funding, professional development funding and mastery-based system development — in the new funding formula.

“The accountability will remain, but we would have the flexibility to move the dollars as needed in each individual district or charter school,” they wrote.

ISBA Executive Director Karen Echeverria did not respond to an Idaho Education News reporter who emailed several questions Tuesday seeking additional clarification on the organizations’ specific positions.

Check back with Idaho Education News on Thursday afternoon for coverage of the funding formula committee meeting.

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