NEA ranks Idaho last in per-student funding

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The National Education Association’s annual ranking and estimate report showed that the national average for student spending was $14,000; in Idaho it was only $8,376.

BOISE, Idaho — The National Education Association’s annual ranking and estimate report found that from 2020 to 2021, the national average spent per student was over $14,000; the report also found that Idaho spent $8,376 per student, ranking last at 51.

“There has been a long-standing neglect, honestly, of public education in Idaho,” said Mike Journee, spokesman for the Idaho Education Association.

This is the second year that Idaho has placed last in the same category.

“We’ve been here for a while and we’re going to have to have a long conversation about how to improve this,” said House Education Committee member Sally Toone.

The report also found that the average salary for public school teachers across the country was $65,293. The average teacher salary in Idaho was $51,817, which puts them 45th in the nation.

“Unfortunately, we were one of three states where they denied our salaries when you put inflation there, and then say you want professional teachers, that’s a double-edged sword,” said Toone.

“One of the most important things for student success is having an experienced, well-supported educator in the classroom,” Journee said.

According to Journee, the below-average salary findings come at a time when more than half of Idaho teachers are considering leaving the industry.

“We’re still way behind, and we still have a long way to go to bring Idaho on par with other states, especially surrounding states, where our educators can go to work for a lot more money, better benefits “, Journee said. .

Rep. Toone believes the road to recovery begins with updating Idaho’s funding formula. According to Toone, the state has allocated a fixed amount of funding to school districts, if that is not enough, districts must run additional levies to make up the funding difference.

“When we have neighborhoods like Blaine County and Coeur d’Alene that have really high property values, and when they pass a levy, they can pass it off as more,” she said. “When you have a neighborhood like Bliss, Idaho, which has 180 college students, you don’t have the ability to collect that tax,” Toone said.

Toone said she would like to see the funding formula readjusted to take into account the number of students.

“Let’s talk about a small school district, whether we have ten kids in the class or 30 kids, it’s going to cost the same, so that class unit has to be factored in,” Toone said.

According to House Education Committee chairman Lance Clow, simply changing the funding formula will not be enough.

“Changing the funding formula by itself doesn’t solve the problem, it’s more money in the formula that solves the problem,” Clow said.

Clow added that more money will come to Idaho schools and teachers.

“We’re on track to make dramatic changes to teacher salaries,” Clow said. “The next few years will see dramatic increases in state appropriations.”

Recent NEA rankings do not reflect the 12.5% ​​increase in K-12 funding that was approved in the last Idaho legislative session.

“I think it’s hard to move the needle when you know that other states, especially down, are investing more and more every year as well,” Clow said.

However, the recent report did not drop Idaho in all categories. Idaho ranked 29 in entry-level teacher salaries, with an average of $39,842, slightly below the national average.

Some policymakers are encouraged that additional state funding in the coming years will only increase the good work of Idaho schools.

“This year is the biggest increase we’ve had in a long time and hopefully that will change some of those numbers by a few slots,” Toone said. “Morale and the good side of our public education, we have to ring the bell basically because these are victories.”

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