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Idaho education funding lags

Layne McInelly IEA
Layne McInelly

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK)-New rankings released by the National Education Association show Idaho ranks last among 50 states and the District of Columbia in per-student funding.

According to the Idaho Education Association, Idaho provided $6,747 of funding for each K-12 public school student in 2018-19.  That is an increase of $8 per student over the previous year, when Idaho also placed at the bottom of the rankings.

“Idaho students deserve better—a lot better,” said IEA President Layne McInelly. “Consistently ranking at or near the bottom in terms of the state’s investment in our public school students is an unacceptable trend that must be reversed.”

The IEA claims the problem dates back to a legislative tax shift made in 2006, which left the state without a consistent and reliable funding source for public education. The organization said that was followed by budget cuts in the wake of the Great Recession, then legislative tax cuts in 2018.

McInelly said the COVID-19 pandemic has created even more uncertainty.

“We call on our elected officials to adequately fund our schools and provide the stability students need in the coming months and years,” says McInelly. “Idahoans strongly support public education, yet the Idaho legislature has shortchanged its students for too long. Lawmakers should be embarrassed by a last place ranking in per pupil funding.”

The latest national rankings also show Idaho has the sixth highest student-to-teacher ratio, at 18.5 students to every teacher in K-12 classrooms.

A legislative effort to increase average teacher pay helped move Idaho from 43rd in the nation to 41st.  But the COVID-19 outbreak delayed implementation of programs to address the issue of veteran teacher pay and retention.

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