NEA: Idaho ranks last in per-pupil spending, again

Idaho again placed last in a national teacher union’s per-pupil spending comparison.

The National Education Association‘s annual Ranking and Estimates Report put Idaho at No. 51 in the category for 2020-21.

The report underscores a lingering trend in Idaho. Multiple studies have for years put the state at or near the bottom of per-student spending tallies, sparking concerns from K-12 leaders.

Idaho Education Association spokesman Mike Journee acknowledged the state’s dismal showing in the report, but pointed to a “very important” 2022 legislative session that brought an 11% increase to K-12 education funding.

The 2020-21 numbers don’t reflect that latest increase, but “clearly, we still have a long way to go,” Journee told EdNews.

Still, Idaho’s 2020-21 per-pupil standing didn’t budge despite years of increases in K-12 spending, including at least $100 million per year from 2015 through 2019. The 2020 Legislature followed those increases up with an extra $78.7 million.

Some raw numbers from the latest NEA report:

  • Idaho spent $8,376 per pupil in 2020-21, $543 more than the previous year but not enough to move it from the bottom. Idaho also ranked last on the list in 2018-19.
  • The 2020-21 national per-pupil average: $14,360, 42% more than Idaho’s average.
  • Neighboring Utah remained at No. 50 nationally, with $9,968 per pupil — $1,592 more than Idaho. By comparison, Wyoming’s $18,385 per-student landed the state at No. 11 on the list.

The pandemic and teacher turnover slowed progress the state had made in another key area in the report. Idaho’s teachers salaries had moved upward in NEA’s past rankings, but slipped back into the bottom 10 in 2020-21 following a temporary teacher salary freeze at the outset of the pandemic. (Here’s a look at teacher salary trends by district and charter.)

Idaho’s 2020-21 average teacher salary: $51,817, down from $52,875 the year prior, before the freeze. The 2020-21 number puts the state at No. 45 nationally, and well below the 2020-21 national average of $65,293.

The 2020 Legislature’s 11% K-12 funding hike includes a $104 million infusion into the state’s career ladder teacher salary schedule. That includes $36.4 million of federal money, a one-time cash infusion aimed at moving teachers up the ladder. But again, those increases don’t factor into the 2020-21 figures.

Idaho ranked much better when it comes to salaries for starting teachers, with  an average of $39,842, just $1,928 less than the nation average of $41,770.

Click here to view the report; scroll down for a map with numbers from each state.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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