School funding committee wants to get back to work

The House Education Committee signed off on a resolution to put the Legislature’s interim school funding formula committee back to work this summer.

Chuck Winder
Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise

House Education took action less than 24 hours after the funding formula committee delivered a report on its work from 2016, its first year in business.

“That was kind of the easy part, that was bringing all the stakeholders together, that was going out listening to the public and hearing what their issues were,” said Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, advocating for extending the committee’s work into 2017. “The really heavy lift comes from this point forward.”

Winder, co-chairman of the funding formula committee alongside Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Wendy Horman, said the committee would spend 2017 developing recommendations for modernizing and updating Idaho’s school funding formula.

Unchanged since 1994, the formula is a complex, attendance-based model used to allocate nearly $1.7 billion in public school funding annually.

Winder requested $400,000 for the funding committee to retain financial analysts and utilize computer models to simulate the impact of funding model changes on schools across Idaho.

The funding committee plans to issue formal recommendations to the 2018 Legislature.

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“The most important thing over the next nine months or so as we go forward with the interim committee will be meeting with stakeholders, trying to build a coalition,” Winder said. “If we didn’t learn anything else when we tried to do reform that was rejected by voters (through Propositions 1, 2 and 3 in 2012) is you can’t do it from the top down. You have got to do it from the bottom up, from the grassroots.”