Guest Post: Recent Funding Increase Improves Idaho’s Education

Guest post submitted by Rachael Everly

In 2010 Idaho’s State Board of Education and business leaders set an objective of having at least 60% of Idahoans holding a postsecondary degree by 2020 while currently the percentage stands at 41%. This is definitely an ambitious goal, needing a lot of efforts and improvement to arrive at. With the recession just having affected the state, economists are trying to look for methods that would allow for sustained growth. One of the key elements that play a part in this is state funded education and loan accumulation. Many analysts have pointed at the need for having a sustainable rehabilitation from loans for students, citing it as one of the cripplers for the newer applicants in the job market. One such method is through improving education and worker skills as that would provide the state with labor who knows how to operate within the contemporary and highly technologically advanced economy. In fact the objective mentioned above was set after a 2010 study conducted by Georgetown University concluded that at least 60% of the jobs by 2020 will require the employees to be having post-secondary qualifications. Since such a competitive environment needs well-educated workforce, improving education is one way to fulfill that demand. The following table lists the percentage of jobs that are expected to be available in 2018 according to educational qualifications.

 

Idaho has recently received a budget increase for their public school funding and it is a perfect move in light of the set goals. A 7.4% increase in the public school funding was approved as part of the 2015-16’s state budget. This makes up $1.476 billion and 48% of the state’s general fund budget expenses. There had been a serious cut in the public school funding of Idaho by almost quarter of a billion dollars between 2009 and 2011. The recent rise in budget should provide slight relief to this cut. This budget increase approval did not need any discussion and was done with quickly because efforts are being made to support public schools for which collaboration is needed. The budget committee tried to save funds in other budgeted areas so that more could be spent on public education. In spite of this there were seven votes received against the budget and these voters did

not even give an explanation for their disapproval. The reason behind that minority turning against funding for public schools remains to be found out.

This school budget will allow for an increased state spending on education, the difference amounting to $101.2 million over the current year. The career ladder teacher salary law will be completely funded with $33.5 million. $33.2 million would be spent to boost the schools’ operating funding. Although there would be an increase in per-classroom operational funding from $22,401 to $23,868 it would still be less than that in 2008-09 (when it was $25,696). Teachers’ minimum salary would rise from $31,750 to $32,700. Teacher professional development would be funded with $13.2 million. Teacher leader premiums would be funded with $16.1 million. These premiums are used to reward teachers for extraordinary efforts. Advanced college courses offered within high school would be allocated $6 million and $2.1 million for Wi-Fi in Idaho schools.

The budget increase has been made and it is all well and good. However, considering that it has been reported that Idaho does not spend fairly on its students, it waits to be seen whether these funds will be adequately used for public education. Idaho has been reported to be spending quite less on its students, in fact the lowest in the nation. The state’s spending per prisoner is three times more than that spent on per student. Because of Idaho’s education funding inequity, the teachers have been paid low wages and there is no proper access to early childhood education which actually forms the basis of higher education.

“Decades of research demonstrate that concentrated poverty is a significant barrier to educational progress. The increasing isolation of poor students in schools and districts presents what may be the most daunting challenge currently facing American public education.”

The report attempted at finding out how fairly the states use money for helping poor students overcome obstacles that are an inevitable consequence of poverty. The findings showed that one-third of Idaho kids (which totaled to more than 100,000) attend schools operating in districts with 20-30% students living below the poverty live. Two-thirds of these (around 200,000) went to schools in districts having 10-20% poverty. This clearly shows that there is a line drawn between the poor and non-poor students and this should be a matter of concern and should be addressed right away. It is important that poor students are not deprived of education just because of their monetary status and also because the state requires more and more Idahoans to graduate to take up jobs that would be created in future and would require qualified persons.

Considering the requirement for increasingly qualified workers, the state needs to make sure that Idahoans graduate and have various qualifications to be able to secure jobs but those having computer science/technology and business and economics degrees will be in the highest demand. Improving funds for public schools is definitely needed to reach the set goal, but what is more important is that these funds are actually used properly and where required.

Rachael Everly is an undergraduate student of finance who loves to write on the topics related to Money Management and Loan Forgiveness.

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