Reliance on federal funds for the expenditures of public education in Idaho could imperil the state’s students. The expenditures of Idaho’s Department of Education total 14 percent in federal funding.
Although a seemingly small percent, the more than $200 million in federal funding greatly impacts the state’s students. Compared to other states in the West, Idaho has the heaviest reliance on federal revenue per student in the public education system. It was estimated that the federal budget cuts in 2013 affected 23,000 Idaho students.
Not only does the Idaho Department of Education’s reliance on federal funding impact students and teachers, the reliance gives the federal government unprecedented control over Idaho’s public education.
Four states—Indiana, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Louisiana—have asserted their constitutional control over education and withdrawn from the Common Core national standards. Even though the United States Department of Education denies its involvement in pushing for adoption of the standards, the backlash for the states that have withdrawn has been swift and merciless.
Idaho should welcome a healthy debate on the state’s adoption of the standards, but the state’s reliance on federal funding of education can squash that debate. The Idaho Department of Education denies that Idaho has received incentives for adopting the standards, but the money trail left by the $438 million the Idaho Department of Education received from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus funds) shows otherwise.
Idaho has placed the federal government in the driver’s seat for the state’s education policy by ignorance or choice. The sooner Idaho leaves behind federal funding for the state’s public education system, the faster the state can begin dictating its own education goals instead of playing catch up with Washington’s finest.