NEA report: Idaho still on the bottom for per-student spending

Idaho’s per-student spending increased slightly during the 2020-21 school year, but average teacher salaries dropped, according to an annual report by the National Education Association.

The latest estimates, provided to the NEA by state departments of education across the country, suggest that Idaho still has the lowest per-pupil spending of any state during the pandemic year, and has started to slip backward in teacher pay after years of increasing salaries.

Idaho Education Association president Layne McInelly blasted the per-student spending in a Monday news release.

“The Idaho legislature’s lack of support for public education continues to be a national embarrassment,” McInelly said. “While our legislature is focused on  unnecessary tax cuts, private school vouchers and kangaroo court task forces on ‘indoctrination,’ the real problems facing Idaho public (schools), including dramatic shortages in resources and personnel, remain unaddressed.”

The latest NEA report estimates education statistics for 2020-21, and issues state-by-state rankings for the 2019-2020 year.

In 2019-20, Idaho recorded another year of growth  in average teacher pay. The Gem State moved out of the bottom 10 states for teacher pay, ranking 39th nationally with an average teacher salary of $52,875.

But estimates for the current school year show that trend has reversed. Idaho’s average teacher salary in 2020-21 was $51,817, down about two percent from the 2019-20 average.

Those numbers are slightly different from the averages the State Department of Education provided to EdNews in January, but reflect the same trend: a drop from the 2019-20 average.

Idaho’s average teacher pay has increased by more than 15 percent since 2015, when lawmakers passed a career-ladder salary law. But veteran turnover and a temporary salary freeze drove salary declines in about half of Idaho’s 181 districts and charters this year.

Idaho’s backslide bucks a national trend, according to the NEA report. The national average teacher salary in 2020-21 was projected at $65,090, up about 1.5 percent from the year before.

Meanwhile, Idaho’s per-pupil spending increased slightly, but remains the lowest in the nation.

At $7,833 per-student, Idaho has the lowest estimated per-pupil spending of all 50 states and the District of Colombia in 2020-21, which has been the case since at least 2018. The number is up $128 from 2019-20, but still well below the national average of $14,243 per student. New York spends the most, at an estimated $27,656.

The Idaho Education Association also highlighted another low ranking from this year’s NEA report: Idaho had the sixth highest student-to-teacher ratio in 2019-20, unchanged from the year before. 

According to the NEA, Idaho has about 18 students per teacher. The national average is closer to 16 students per teacher. Utah has the highest student-to-teacher ratio with an average of 22 kids per teacher. Vermont’s is the lowest, at 10 kids per teacher.

About Sami Edge

Reporter Sami Edge, a University of Oregon graduate, joined Idaho Education News in 2019. She is a 2019 Education Writers Association fellow reporting on Latino student outcomes in Idaho. She also is a 2019 American Press Institute fellow. She can be reached at [email protected].

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