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Idaho education: High for academic achievement, low on K-12 per pupil spending

Idaho education: High for academic achievement, low on K-12 per pupil spending

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
May 22, 2013
[post_thumbnail]Sen. John Goedde, left, R-Coeur d'Alene, is the chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

A new report from the United States Census Bureau indicates that Idaho is ranked near the bottom among the states when it comes to spending on public education. Yet the same Census Bureau report and an education journal from Harvard University indicate that Idaho is among the top 20 states in the nation when it comes to academic achievement.

“Our rankings for reading and mathematics achievement are significant,” commented Melissa McGrath, spokesperson for the Idaho Department of Education. According to the Census Bureau report, Idaho is ranked No. 19 among the states for reading test scores and No. 16 among the states for mathematics test scores.

“That means that we are 19th and 16th among the states respectively, with students that are performing at or above grade level in those academic disciplines,” McGrath told IdahoReporter.com.

Conversely, the District of Columbia ranks No. 2 in the nation for public education spending (when ranked among the 50 states), yet comes in last with academic achievement.

The Census Bureau report also lists Idaho as being near the bottom—second only to the state of Utah—in per-pupil spending on a state-by-state basis. Yet in fiscal year 2013, nearly half— indeed a full 47 percent—of the Idaho government’s entire budget is devoted to public education. As a percentage of the overall state budget, Idaho’s spending is far higher than the national average.

“There is something missing in all these news reports, and I think it’s substantial,” Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, told IdahoReporter.com. Goedde, chairman of the Idaho Senate Education Committee, said that “historically Idaho has allotted somewhere between 45 and 52 percent of our state budget for public education, yet some other states are as low as 30 percent. If you consider the percentage of our entire state budget and the academic achievement we’re producing, I think we are doing pretty well.”

Goedde’s assessment concurs with findings that were unveiled during the fall of 2012 in “Education Next,” an academic research journal on public education published by Harvard University. After a nearly two-decades long study (between 1990 and 2009) of academic achievement among the 50 states and several foreign countries, “Education Next” reported that Idaho has not only improved academic achievement significantly, but also uses tax dollars very wisely.

In a section of their report entitled “Money Is Not The Answer: spending more does not necessarily lift test scores,” researchers Eric A. Hanushek, Ludger Woessmann and Paul E. Peterson wrote that “some states received more educational bang for their additional expenditure buck than others. Michigan, Indiana, Idaho, North Carolina, Colorado and Florida made the most achievement gains for every incremental dollar spent over the past two decades.” The study was released in November of 2012.

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