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Study Questions Constitutionality Of Idaho’s Education Funding Plan

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Study finds Idaho education funding has significantly decreased since 2000.

A report released today by the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy questions whether the state is meeting its constitutional duty to “maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”

The report is authored by the center’s director Mike Ferguson, who was also Idaho’s chief economist for 25 years.

“One of the things I wanted to draw attention to is that unlike most state programs, public school funding is enshrined in the state constitution, it is basically different,” Ferguson says.

Ferguson’s report examines Idaho’s public school funding system from 1980 through 2013 (it includes the latest education budget for fiscal year 2013 which was signed into law recently.)

The school funding report focuses on two key issues:

  1. A decline in funding for public school maintenance and operation (teacher salaries, support staff, utilities, etc.) since 2000.
  2. An increase in relying on unequalized property tax levies in order to support school district maintenance and operation budgets.

Here are the main findings of Ferguson’s study:

  • Public school funding has significantly decreased over the last 13 years.
  • Tax cuts and increased funding of Medicaid have been the two biggest reasons why education funding has declined.
  • Because of property tax differences and local levy options, school districts are not being funded equally, as required by the state constitution.

Ferguson says he initially began the study to take a closer look at how the recession and an increased reliance on property taxes to fund schools, affected Idaho’s education funding plan.  As he dug into the data, Ferguson says the focus of the study changed.

“In the course of putting the information together, I looked at a longer history of public school funding and frankly was surprised to see the pretty dramatic changes since 2000 — well before the great recession,”  Ferguson says.

We’ll have much more on this study, including an interview with economist Mike Ferguson next week.


  • Pwrtech7

    I find it funny that the school district is so quick to point out where the lack of money is coming from — without trying to figure out WHY that may be. A) charter schools and private schools are on the rise because the public schools are failing their responsibility to care about the student — they are being controlled more and more by the courts — they put cameras in the hall ways so they can have proof to send a child to a detention center — they put cameras on a bus so they can kick students off the bus — they put cameras in the classroom to protect union teachers as if putting a camera in the class absolves them from the responsibility of maintaining control in their class room and they FAIL Miserably when it comes down to the individual student and what is really going on — a picture may be worth a thousand words, – but a real delinquent knows where the camera is not and there is where the real trouble is
    – they have set aside a parents input as guidance, (and the parent knows their child better than any teacher in the school), believing that their college education give them the right to dictate what happens in our homes.
    - So — YEA you ARE loosing funding — and unless you change your ways — more charter schools — alternative schools — home teaching and private schools will continue to take that federal money from you and it will be directed to give their children a REAL shot in life — with some real common sense education — it is getting pretty sad when all these new school rules are now becoming a “jail-able offense” . No wonder parents are becoming reluctant to enroll their child in your school — ooop — there went another $12-1500.00 out of your budget — get with the program.

    • Elrond

      Sounds like you had a bad experience which has caused some bitterness. Everything I do in the public school is to try to help kids learn, follow the rules, and if they don’t, help them learn to. I believe the adults I work with are good for kids and are giving the public great value…and in a time when the funding for traditional public schools provides less per pupil (most charters get 150%) I’m not surprised that some of them are doing very good work. By the way, how long would you expect outstanding professionals to stay stuck at the bottom rung of the salary scale? How about 6-9 years in this environment. Two great young teachers I work with are considering other private sector work.

    • ersaunders

      Pwrtech7, thanks for your thoughts. I’d like to point out this study is from the non-partisan Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy — this isn’t produced by the state or an individual school district.

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