Enrollment in Idaho’s K-12 schools continues on a steady climb upward.
The State Department of Education’s latest statewide fall enrollment tally is 306,242 — up 3,910 students, or 1.3 percent.
The overall growth reflects a continued trend in Idaho, where annual enrollment has edged upward by at least 1 percent nearly every year since 2003. That’s an increase of more than 50,000 students over 15 years.
Enrollment is important because it relates to how Idaho funds public schools and charters. The state uses an average-daily-attendance calculation. The model hasn’t been rewritten since 1994, and state leaders say it’s outdated. A legislative interim committee, which spent more than two years studying the arcane attendance-based formula, last month formally recommended a new student-centric, enrollment-based model to lawmakers.
It’s now up to the 2019 Legislature to decide how Idaho will pay for schools — an expense that gobbled up about $1.8 billion in general fund spending this year.
While statewide enrollment is up, students also moved around. Here’s a look at some of the biggest changes across the state.
Some notable changes
The once-tiny Oneida School District’s reported enrollment shows the most growth — by far. According to SDE numbers, the district went from 1,490 students last year to 2,445 this year.
This 955-student surge represents a 66 percent change. It’s the second year of unprecedented reported growth from the district. Last year, Oneida reported growth of 31.4 percent.
Last fall, Idaho Education News reported that Oneida signed an unorthodox contract with a Utah-based online curriculum provider to absorb some 450 digital homeschool students across the state. Despite the enrollment increasing on paper, many or all of those digital students will never set foot inside Oneida’s brick-and-mortar schools.
“I think our growing numbers follow the national trend toward online learning options,” said Oneida Superintendent Rich Moore. “Other Idaho online schools follow a trend of early and rapid growth — then tend to level off.”
The West Ada School District, Idaho’s largest, continues its own growth trend. This year, the district reported 900 additional students, a 2.3 percent change that brings overall enrollment to 39,872. West Ada last year reported 2.1 percent growth.
More than 13 percent of all Idaho public school students attend West Ada schools.
Not all Treasure Valley Schools grew. The Nampa School District reported a decrease of .6 percent, dropping from 15,446 in 2017-18 to 15,345. Nampa’s reported enrollment fell by 2 percent last year.
In East Idaho, both the Bonneville and Jefferson County school districts saw growth. Bonneville grew by almost 4 percent from last year, adding 493 students and surpassing the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District as East Idaho’s largest.
Jefferson County’s enrollment went from 5,802 last year to 6,150, a nearly 6 percent change. Last year, this district reported 5.8 percent growth.
Idaho’s largest online charter school, Idaho Virtual Academy, saw its second consecutive year of enrollment decreases. Last year, the school reported a 7.3 percent decline from the year before. This year, enrollment fell from 1,685 to 1,661. This change represents a .1 percent drop.
Other notable changes
- 2017-18: 9,036
- 2018-19: 9,469
Percent change: 4.7 percent
- 2017-18: 26,041
- 2018-19: 25,833
Percent change: 0.7 percent decrease
- 2017-18: 10,041
- 2018-19: 10,239
Percent change: 1.9 percent
- 2017-18: 12,328
- 2018-19: 12,579
Percent change: 2 percent
* Source: Idaho State Department of Education