Available Soon: Request your printed copies of the Idaho Freedom Index mailed to you!
Request Your Copies
Note to Dustin: This is currently only visible to logged in users for testing.
Click Me!
video could not be found

Financial Literacy is Needed in Education Funding Discussion

Financial Literacy is Needed in Education Funding Discussion

Fred Birnbaum
June 9, 2023

The leftists at Reclaim Idaho are bringing the same math skills to the debate about Idaho’s funding of public schools as they did to Medicaid expansion in 2018. Reclaim Idaho, the group that also infamously pushed for Medicaid expansion, costing taxpayers more than double what was estimated five years ago, claims that the state’s K-12 school system will see its funding cut by $115 million in the upcoming school year. 

This is nothing more than a ploy intended to manufacture hysteria and wring more money from taxpayers, even though the school system has already gotten more than its share of spending increases in the last decade, without any expectation of better results. 

As the Idaho Freedom Foundation has documented, inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending has increased steadily for over a decade with no discernible improvement in results. 

*Excluded from the analysis are other sources of revenue and local revenue for items such as: sales of assets, rentals, bookstore sales, club dues, donations and other categories. These revenues and related expenses are significant. However they are cyclical and not fixed period expenses. For the period 2004 to 2021, in inflation adjusted dollars, they range from $661 to $2,609 per student.

The graphic covers the period before the passage of House Bill 1 in the 2022 extra session which earmarked $330 million of state funds for education. What was never stated in either the bill language or description was that these funds would be distributed solely through the education funding formula, regardless of changes in enrollment. The bill merely distributed $330 million to the public school income fund. 

Based on the FY23 original appropriations, the state provided K-12 schools with $2.447 billion. This amount does not include federal funds or local property tax-derived funds. Of that amount, roughly $2.044 billion was estimated to be allocated using the funding formula. For FY24, Lawmakers passed, and Gov. Brad Little signed legislation giving $2.825 billion to public schools with an estimated $2.408 billion going through the funding formula. On every planet in the solar system, this is a significant spending increase. 

The funding formula uses “support units” to determine how the money is allocated to public schools throughout the state, as defined on pages 1-6 of the FY24 Legislative Budget Book, “Support Units are the foundation of how Idaho schools are funded, and are often thought of, and referred to, as classroom units. The state does not fund schools based on the number of students; it funds them based on the number of support units. Support units are typically based on the number of students counted via average daily attendance (ADA) calculations in multiple categories, such as kindergarten, elementary, and secondary.” 

Reclaim Idaho’s complaint boils down to this: For FY21, 22, and 23, the State Board of Education decided to use enrollment instead of average daily attendance to determine funding distribution to schools. This was because attendance was down on account of the government’s overreaction to COVID. In other words, school districts didn’t need to worry about losing money because students decided to either not come to school or chose to attend classes virtually. But now, the State Board of Education has decided to go back to using ADA instead of enrollment because the COVID stuff is in the rearview mirror.

Attendance is lower than enrollment given that some portion of students leave, move, or are absent at any given time. 

The leftists are angry that schools aren’t just given money regardless of whether students actually are attending school. Yet Idaho’s public schools would be getting $215 million more through the funding formula. The $215 million funding formula increase alone represents an estimated 10.9% increase in the distribution of funds to schools from FY23 to 24, leaving just over $200 million appropriated but not specifically projected to be allocated if the actual “headcount” is roughly flat. But it must be noted that the model that projected the $215 million increase doesn’t assume the sort of attendance growth that is possible, post-COVID, as children return to school and now schools have every incentive to encourage attendance.

And in what universe is a nearly 11% average increase insufficient in an environment of steady headcount? Reclaim Idaho just wants the system to get more money whether students attend school or not. Idaho’s government schools are awash in money. There are no cuts, no broken promises. Arguments to the contrary are just a deception intended to fuel outrage and continue the bogus argument that schools don’t have enough money. 

Outside of the funding formula allocation, the state provides about $417 million for items like transportation, the digital learning academy, advanced opportunities, technology, professional development, and curriculum. This is about a $14 million increase from FY23. The funding formula allocates approximately 84% to 85% of state funds. If all state and federal funds are included, for FY24, the funding formula accounts for 71% of the appropriation. This number will change as federal COVID funds are consumed. 

And for the last five years, FY18 through 22, the K-12 system has withdrawn $119 million from the Public Education Stabilization Fund (PESF). This rainy day fund, ostensibly for emergencies, is now being used as an annual piggy bank to supplement appropriations. And despite these withdrawals, generous additions to PESF have contributed to a projected FY24 ending balance of $233 million, subject to any additional withdrawals, of course. 

And finally over and above the annual ongoing federal grants for schools of about $250 million, the FY24 budget contains another $306 million of federal COVID funds. Sure, this is down from the peak of COVID funds, but this is over $300 million that did not exist before FY21.

In summary, the state of Idaho has consistently increased inflation-adjusted per-pupil funding for public schools for the last decade, dipped into the rainy day every year for the last five years for extra money, and appropriated an over 15% increase in state funds this year with a projected funding formula allocation increase in the double-digit percentage. But where is the gratitude? And what about expecting some better outcomes before even more money flows to K-12 government schools?

Idaho Freedom Foundation
802 W. Bannock Street, Suite 405, Boise, Idaho 83702
p 208.258.2280 | e [email protected]
COPYRIGHT © 2024 Idaho freedom Foundation
magnifiercrossmenucross-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram