Idaho’s elected officials have a golden opportunity to finally address public school funding in a meaningful way. The record budget surplus should be directed to Idaho’s public schools, which continue to be under-resourced in a state that willingly ranks last in per student funding. The surplus can, and should, be used to address the many pressing needs of Idaho schools and communities.
• Class sizes and workloads. Idaho has the sixth highest average class size in the nation, leading to educator burnout, overcrowded classrooms, and less one-on-one time between students and educators.
• Support staff. Additional investments would increase competitive pay so districts can hire much needed support staff. Idaho needs to pay a living wage to custodial workers, bus drivers, paraeducators, nutrition staff, and substitute teachers or further risk losing valuable members of the education team to other jobs.
• Mental health support. Idaho schools are woefully short on counselors and psychologists at a time when students need support for mental and emotional health more than ever.
• College and career readiness. Idahoans believe we need to invest more in public education because it will pay off in attracting jobs, growing our economy, and achieving future prosperity. But too many schools lack the resources for staff with the specific skill set to help students plan for and achieve their goals.
• Facilities and technology. The surplus should be used to repair or replace the many school facilities that are outdated, obsolete, or unsafe.
• Property tax relief. Too many Idaho schools, especially in rural areas, are reliant on local levies and bonds, creating a burden on local taxpayers and inequities for students based on where they live.
Layne McInelly, President, Idaho Education Association