Idaho Board of Education Approves Change in School Funding



Students began their school year at Owyhee High School, the newest school in the West Ada School District, in August.

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The Idaho State Board of Education last week approved a temporary rule to calculate funding for K-12 public schools based on student enrollment instead of daily attendance.

The change comes as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact schools for a third school year. Throughout the year, thousands of Idaho students were out of school after testing positive for COVID-19 or quarantined after possible exposure.

“With so many students staying home this year, feeling sick and in quarantine, our public schools, system-wide, are at risk of losing nearly $ 100 million if we fund the system. only on the basis of daily attendance this year, “said Chairman of the Board Kurt Liebich. in a report.

The rule allows the average number of full-time equivalent students to be used, instead of daily attendance, to calculate the average number of daily attendance used to determine how the state distributes funding to public schools.

The State Council approved the same change last year.

According to documents on the council meeting agendas, daily school attendance rates throughout the state of Idaho are normally around 95% on average. But during the pandemic, some schools reported attendance rates dropping as much as 80%.

“School districts and charter schools have reported much higher cases of students sick at much higher than normal rates or staying home due to quarantine,” the council documents said.

Schools in Idaho have had different quarantine requirements throughout the year, with some districts requiring students to be quarantined after possible exposure to someone with coronavirus, and others leaving the decision to parents.

Several district and charter school administrators had asked the board to consider the temporary rule allowing the use of student registration.

Officials from the Idaho Charter Schools Network submitted a letter to the board demanding the change and outlining the possible consequences charter schools could suffer without it.

“Idaho’s public charter schools are facing unnecessary cuts with potentially significant consequences, caused by absences due to COVID,” wrote President Terry Ryan and Executive Director Blake Youde.

“For one state agency, with the support of the healthcare community and the governor, urging citizens to act responsibly by staying home when they show symptoms or while waiting for test results,” while another penalizes those who do, is confusing and dishonest and has set up charter schools in an impossible and imminently dangerous position.

The president of the Idaho Association of School Business Officials also sent a letter to board members and said the change in enrollment funding would help mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on schools. The letter said most districts had seen attendance rates between 5% and 10% lower than reported before the pandemic.

The board plans to push legislation during the 2022 legislative session to make the change permanent.

“We are already working with lawmakers and stakeholders to make a definite shift to FTE workforce-based funding,” said Liebich. “We just can’t risk such big funding this year. Our school board members, administrators and educators already have enough to worry about, and stable funding shouldn’t be one of them.

Becca Savransky covers education for the Idaho statesman in partnership with Report for America. The position is funded in part by community support. Click here to donate.

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Becca Savransky covers education for the Idaho statesman. She is a member of the Report for America Corps whose position is partially funded by donations from the community. Click here to donate to help fund her position. Becca is a graduate of Northwestern University and previously worked for and The Hill.
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