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Here’s how much Idaho spends on public education

Untangling Education

Both Gov. Brad Little and state superintendent Sherri Ybarra have dropped their billion-dollar K-12 budget requests.

That’s billion with a “b” — a lot of cash by Idaho standards.

Each year, the governor and schools chief float their funding wish lists to lawmakers ahead of the legislative session. Each year, the number edges ever upward into the billions. And each year, the Legislature meets requests by devoting almost half of the state’s entire budget to K-12.

The current amount of state funding for Idaho’s districts sits at $2.1 billion. By comparison, Oprah Winfrey’s net worth is $2.6 billion, Forbes says. Idaho entrepreneur Frank VanderSloot is worth about $3.2 billion.

Earmarking almost half of the budget for K-12 has become a theme in Idaho. Here’s what the state’s entire funding pie looked like in 2019-20, before the number crossed the $2 billion threshold last legislative session:

Add in that $351.6 million for colleges and universities, and the 2019-20 portion for public learning swells to around 60%.

If the governor and superintendent have any say, the number will grow again in 2022-23.

  • With a $1.9 billion projected surplus on the horizon, Little floated a historic round of bonuses and teacher raises during his recent State of the State address. Little’s plan would take funding to around $2.3 billion, an 11% increase.
  • Ybarra asked for just over $2.2 billion from the general fund, an 8.1% hike. She unveiled her request late last summer, when the surplus projection was $1.4 billion.

Click here to compare the budget requests.

But budget requests are budget requests. It’s up to lawmakers to carve up next school year’s funds. And that’s a process.

Four weeks of hearings remain for Idaho’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, a powerful bicameral body of lawmakers who write the state’s budgets, including those for K-12.

Ybarra kicked the hearing process off by laying her funding hopes before the committee earlier this week.

JFAC starts writing budget bills on Feb. 18.

Those bills must pass both houses before hitting the governor’s desk for his consideration.

It all takes months. And this year, other factors are at play.

Every lawmaker and every elected statewide official is up for reelection. Reaction to Ybarra’s budget request was swift from the two candidates vying to replace her. One said it ignored kindergarteners. The other said it ignored parents.

Plus, lawmakers are jumping into this legislative session with an unprecedented projected $1.9 billion surplus.

That’s billion with a “b” — and there’s competition for the mountain of cash.

We’ll have two reporters at the Statehouse for all of it, so stay tuned.

Click here for more on Ybarra’s budget hearing, and reactions to it. And follow EdNews senior reporter Kevin Richert’s ongoing election coverage here

A funding side note

Idaho devotes a high percentages of its budget to K-12. In 2019, the state ranked fourth in a national comparison from the National Center for Education Statistics.

But that doesn’t mean all funding metrics shake out favorably for the state — or even come close. A range of factors, from the number of income-producing adults to the number of school-age children, have hampered the state’s per-pupil spending for years.

The National Education Association marked Idaho dead-last for per-pupil spending in a nationwide comparison for the second straight year this year.

The state regularly falls at or near the bottom of annual per-pupil tallies.

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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