Idaho's commitment to education, in sharp focus

Here is a draft of our Tuesday editorial.

With sufficient repetition, the Statehouse mantra has graduated to governing principle.

Spending money does not ensure educational quality.

But spending money on public schools — or cutting K-12 budgets — brings a state’s priorities into sharp focus.
Here’s the grim Idaho snapshot, courtesy of a study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C, think tank:

• From 2007-08 to 2012-13, when adjusted for inflation, per-pupil spending in Idaho dropped by 19 percent. Only three states had a steeper decline.

• In terms of dollars, again adjusted for inflation, Idaho’s five-year decline comes to $1,083 per student, third highest in the nation.

• Even in the past year — as the state’s fiscal picture improved to the point that legislators decided to reduce corporate and top-end personal income tax rates, while socking other money into savings — support for K-12 still eroded slightly. Inflation-adjusted spending dropped another $30 per pupil, a 0.7 percent decline.

By no means is Idaho alone. As the report points out, 35 states cut per-pupil spending over the past five years, and 26 reduced this spending from 2011-12 to 2012-13. What is troubling is the fact that, according to this report, Idaho’s cuts were among the deepest in the nation — and continued, to a lesser degree, even when the economy showed signs of improvement.

These are the kind of decisions that keep Idaho’s per-pupil spending holding firm at No. 50 in the nation.
State schools superintendent Tom Luna’s office disputes the report’s math. Spokeswoman Melissa McGrath tells StateImpact Idaho that per-pupil spending dropped nearly 12 percent from 2008 to 2011.

That isn’t much of an improvement.

Disagreeing over the numbers doesn’t change two indisputable points.

First, Idaho’s cuts have placed more pressure on local property owners, who have voted to approve levies to help make up the difference. Here, Idaho voters should pat themselves on the back. The real estate bust has been especially acute in Idaho, and voters have still shown a real willingness to backfill local school budgets.

Second, Students Come First, the Luna K-12 overhaul, has its roots in the budget crisis. After the 2010 election, Luna pieced together an education plan premised on the idea that tight K-12 budgets were the new normal. The results — laws to expand online learning technology, establish teacher merit pay and rewrite the teacher collective bargaining process — will be on the statewide ballot Nov. 6.

Whether voters ratify or reject the Luna laws, one thing won’t change. Idaho’s investment in K-12 ranks among the stingiest in the nation. By any measure, the past few years have made matters worse.

When voters elect legislators in two months, they need to ask themselves a question: Do they want to do something about this — or are they, like their elected officials, comfortable bringing up the rear?

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fuzzy focus

KR, Unlike your headline, the study is not in sharp focus.

It fails to consider the drop in income of the average Idahoan compared to the rest of the country over the same time period. Compare that to the drop in the school budget.

Everything is relative.

Secondly, let's compare the percentage of total budget dedicated to education. That includes the percentage on the local level. I don't know what that would be- could be better or worse- but it's certainly a better measure than just the nominal dollar amount spent.

not sure where you're going with that...

Is Idaho 50th in wage earnings in the nation? Did we have the most "drop in income" of all 50 states? I really don't know, and wouldn't be too surprised if we were- nonetheless I don't think that would justify Idaho's stinginess in regards to investing in our people.

The numbers quoted do factor in inflation, which is not the same as "drop in income," but there is a relationship there. Doesn't help that even before the economy tanked we were lagging behind the majority of state's investments in tomorrow's economy/people.

A sharper focus

There are a couple of lenses through which the focus might sharpen.

In 2006, the Risch tax shift moved $260 million from property tax to general fund responsibility. This increased the percent of general fund going to education without increasing public school funding.

Yes, the household income in Idaho has dropped, but not as much as education funding ha dropped. Median household income dropped about 10%, and mean family income about 8% as compared with a drop of 19% in school funding, all over the last three years.

Finally, the federal stimulus supported public schools and higher education for a few years. We no longer have that funding.


I suspect the 19% is inflation adjusted and the 10% is not inflation adjusted.

I suspect McGraths' 12% drop in funding is also not inflation adjusted and that's why she uses it because it sounds better.

Let's put the apples together:

10% drop in income
12% drop in funding

+/- I think that relationship is pretty close.

Want more funding? Let's get more income!
What is the Statesman doing to help with that goal?

Tell you what pimpy

1. Do you constantly make excuses with vague, "well this wasn't considered" and then do nothing to add validity to your assertion?
"Well the squirrels must be killing the trees, they live in them and climb on them. I haven't checked it out, but I'm a firm anti squirrel person so I'd never consider the other possibilities."
You know you can go to Goodwill and get perfectly functional clothes. They cover, don't have any holes and etc. But, when other people are wearing something from this century and you aren't, you are still behind the curve despite the excuses made.
3. It's simple, you get what you pay for and what you value as important.
You don't value education if it costs you beer money (or whatever you spend it on). You only value education if it comes out of someone elses pocket. Just try being honest.
If they came out and said, such and such company is paying 60million a year to public education in Idaho there wouldn't be one real complaint of of people like you.

I value blue turf

I've seen giant squirrels with big teeth chop down trees. Swimming squirrels!

Increase the value of an Idaho Education.

We're talking about k-12 here, right?
So somehow the value of a H.S. Diploma from somewhere else is MORE valuable than the Idaho diploma? Adding to my assertion- the answer is no.

Drop 60 Million into the k-12 system and you will NOT increase the value of the diploma. You will still have the same graduates you have now. You will also have fancier junior high buildings, more highly paid vice-principals, more frequent paid field trips to the nearest liberal function, more district coordinators for one specialty class, and a huge disparity on the amount of funds spent per student based on where that child lives.

"people like you".
Very thoughtful boisestfan. You are leading the way in education. Bravo!

even if it's "only" 12%

that's really not something to proud of. So instead of being 4th worst we're only 12th worst? Goody.

Pimp2, putting money into the school system doesn't result in fancier buildings. Those are paid for by local levy, not by the state.

As far as field trips, the one that ended the year before my daughter was able to take it was the one to the Statehouse during the legislative session. I don't think there's any definition that makes that a "liberal function."

(Yes, I took her myself, but it's a different experience as part of a class with, you know, an actual teacher.)