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What happens when educators get their wish for more money?

What happens when educators get their wish for more money?

Fred Birnbaum
June 8, 2021
Fred Birnbaum
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June 8, 2021

Can anyone remember a time when Idaho’s K-12 education establishment wasn’t
asking for more money from the Legislature? I can’t.

By more money, I mean more than other agencies generally receive, more than
inflation and enrollment growth, and more than the Legislature appropriates in
any given year.

Congress and the current and former president have showered money on K-12
education during the COVID-19 pandemic and in Idaho too.

For the coming fiscal year (FY22), Idaho’s K-12 public education will receive $3.1
billion in state and federal funds, not including local funds provided by property
taxes. That is up about 33% or $768 million from the $2.3 billion originally
appropriated for the current fiscal year.

That means education spending will jump by one-third this next fiscal year.
That is a whopping increase by any measure. About $697 million of this increase is
provided by the federal government. The critical question: Will student outcomes

If results don’t improve with this massive infusion of money, why should Idaho
taxpayers continue to provide large increases in education funding after the Covid
money runs out? Results must matter.

If we take a step back and review the education funding provided by the
Legislature from FY12 to FY22, we see that it has increased 99%, nearly doubling.
Adjusting for inflation, spending is up 69% in the past decade. During that same
time period, enrollment has increased about 13%, based on current estimates for
FY22. So the inflation adjusted dollars per student is up about 50% in the last

This trendline of education spending increases is not matched by results in
student attainment. The myriad voices in the Idaho education policy space don’t
agree on much, but they don’t dispute that reading and math scores have not
improved – results are generally flat or decreasing in recent years.

So where does this leave us? A reasonable person might ask a simple question: If
funding has doubled yet there’s no improvement, are taxpayers getting an
appropriate return on their investment?

For the last decade, the answer is a clear no.

Expect apologists to blame COVID-19 or something other than the current
education model. And they might complain that much of this one-time money
may not continue.

But there is always some excuse. A frank discussion of alternatives to the current
K-12 model must be part of the conversation.

The Legislative Services Office lists 19 eligible uses of the federal pandemic relief.
Purposes include learning losses due to the pandemic — a catch-all phrase meant
to address time spent away from studying due to Covid — staff training and
development, purchasing education technology, and “other activities that are
necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local
education agencies and continuing to employ existing staff of the local education

So there is tremendous flexibility built into this extra money, too.
Absent from this long list is any expectation that educational attainment will
improve. A few years from now when the money has been spent, can we expect
an improvement in math and reading results? Don’t bet on it.

View Comments
  • KJ says:

    Idaho is heading into Nevada territory. The more money thrown at the schools, the more kids drop out and/or get failing grades.

    In reality, more money is for more pay. Pay for the teachers....

  • Bee says:


    A. More money is wasted.

  • Jim King says:

    If it weren’t for IFF and a handful of patriots in Idaho legislature, Idaho would be much further down the craphole than it is now. I’m concerned voters in Idaho are still complacent or simply misguided by the MSM & “entertainment” propaganda.
    However, I’m also encouraged by parent’s pushback on CRT, 1619 and the rest of Marxist garbage that’s been pushed by democrat lawmakers and “educators”.

  • Dan Foreman says:

    Great article Fred. I’m afraid the extra funding will not yield any academic improvement in our public schools. The public school system is pathetic. It spends much time and money on student indoctrination in the ways of liberalism yet seems to be incapable of fostering true academic achievement. Every year the taxpayers dump more funding into this absolutely failed and wasteful school system. Spending goes up, and documented academic prowess declines. I call that failure. I blame this failure on those teachers who are not good at their job, students who don’t want to learn, parents who could not care less about education, a ridiculous federally influenced curriculum, drugs in the schools, the preaching of neo-Marxism and a state legislature afraid to tackle these real issues in our public schools. I suggest the accepted approach to education in the 1700’s yielded better educated and employment ready graduates than our current over priced and leftist laden public school system. Our state home schoolers and private schools shine with academic achievement. And these folks get by on very skimpy budgets as well. So, the stereotypical public school/union solution of increased funding to cure the system’s ills in not a viable answer. It’s being tried, and it does not work - more spending is not the answer. Dealing with the issues I mentioned is the answer. But of course the liberals, unions and the legislature won’t have the integrity or desire to pursue real solutions. It’s just easier to keep asking for more money while turning out a failing end product. Thank you for bringing this issue to the attention of the people of Idaho.

    • Marte says:

      They just convinced the voters in Bonner County to give them more money - threatening that schools would have to be closed, sports and other activities would have to be cut, etc. They're not only wasteful, they're liars! We voted against it. After all, our population is aging and our school enrollment goes down each year. We don't think they need more money to continue not educating fewer students.

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