Idaho ranks No. 50 in per-pupil spending

Idaho ranked next to last, again, in per-pupil school spending, according to a new report issued by U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2010-11, Idaho’s per-pupil spending came in at $6,824, placing No. 50 among the states and the District of Columbia. Only Utah ranked lower, at $6,212 per pupil.

Idaho’s per-pupil spending came in 35.4 percent lower than the national average of $10,560.

In addition, 2010-11 was sixth successive year that Idaho has ranked No. 50 in per-pupil spending.

Tom Luna
Tom Luna

“I think it’s important information; I don’t take it lightly,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said in an interview Tuesday.

But Luna also says the per-pupil spending numbers draw a lot of public attention, in part, because they are one of the few ways the public can draw comparisons between the states’ education systems. Luna hopes that will change with the advent of Idaho Core Standards and the national Common Core movement. A Common Core supporter, Luna hopes that the states’ performance on common assessments will garner at least as much attention as per-pupil spending statistics.

Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr says the latest Census Bureau report is another sign of the Legislature’s failure to step up and properly fund schools.

Penni Cyr
Penni Cyr

The shortcomings can be seen in many areas — from large class sizes to cuts in teacher professional development to a failure to adequately pay for supplies, leaving teachers to pay the difference out of their own pockets. An improving state economy hasn’t improved the picture for K-12 funding, she said Tuesday. “Honestly, I don’t see any signs of change right now.”

In per-capita spending, Idaho fared slightly better.

Idaho spent $42.14 per $1,000 in personal income on education, ranking No. 43 nationally and lagging 13.4 percent behind the national average of $48.68.

Other news from the report:

  • More than 83 percent of Idaho’s school spending goes to salaries and benefits, slightly above the national average of 81.9 percent. Idaho spends $5,688 per pupil on salaries and benefits.
  • Idaho spends $389 per pupil on school administration. Only Utah and Arizona spent less per pupil. The national average is $571 per pupil.
  • Idaho schools rely more heavily on state funding than schools in other states. In 2010-11, Idaho received 63.2 percent of its funding from the state, and 22.8 percent from local sources, such as property taxes. (The national averages were 44.4 percent and 43.3 percent, respectively.) In August 2006, Idaho virtually eliminated the local maintenance and operations property tax levy for schools, shifting much of this $260 million to an increased state sales tax.
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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