Support for public education is the tie that binds Idahoans together. Time and time again, whether through opinion polls, at the ballot box, by volunteering their time, or through simple expressions of gratitude shared between parents and their children’s teachers, Idaho’s citizens consistently voice support for their local schools, their teachers, and their children’s classrooms.
This broad support for Idaho public education cuts across political parties, geographic regions, and all demographic groups. Idaho’s parents want top-notch education for their children, Idaho businesses know that excellent education is key to the state’s economy, and most of our elected officials voice strong support for quality education.
This belief in education as an investment in our future is the basis for hope that Idaho–especially during this time of economic prosperity and unprecedented financial reserves– can move forward to provide our community schools with the funding necessary to staff up-to-date, well equipped classrooms with highly-qualified teachers and staff.
Idahoans who call for improved funding for education are told again and again that throwing money at schools is not the way to improve educational outcomes. It’s time for this overused cliché to be retired for good, because it is an inaccurate distraction from serious conversation about what is needed to provide high-quality instruction for Idaho’s students.
More money absolutely DOES make a difference! If more money is helpful to farms, ranches, churches, relief organizations, the military, the NFL, NBA, and to overall business health– to attract and retain valuable employees, purchase supplies etc.–then why not public education?
It is completely true that money alone doesn’t solve problems—people do. But staffing our schools and providing reasonable class sizes costs money, as do the resources our teachers need to do their jobs. As long as Idaho’s per-pupil spending is the lowest in the nation, it will be increasingly difficult to attract and retain the highly effective teachers, support staff, and administrators needed to address the considerable educational challenges that our state faces.
Does anyone truly believe that these funding inadequacies do not negatively impact our state’s ability to attract employees to the education profession in Idaho? Does anyone truly believe that these realities encourage young Idahoans to seek a career in education here?
Idaho educators are now in their third school year of teaching in a global pandemic. Improved school funding will not magically remove all obstacles or make teachers’ jobs easier. But improved funding will help ensure that they have the tools to do their very difficult work—and it will show them that they are appreciated and valued in their efforts. Maybe, just maybe, it will encourage educators to stay in this challenging profession—and to stay in our Idaho schools.
Co-written by Wil Overgaard, Geoffrey Thomas, Teresa Fabricius and Don Coberly, all retired Idaho superintendents.