Idaho lawmakers eye big changes to education funding system

Idaho lawmakers are considering a major revamp of the state’s education funding system that’s currently based on a model that originated in the 1950s but could be holding modern students back.

Idaho is one of a handful of states still using a system that distributes money based on how many students show up for class, but fails to account for learning in the age of the internet, students switching schools, and other factors.

Lawmakers on the Idaho House and Senate education committees on Thursday took two hours of comments on the draft legislation, a key aspect of which is a funding formula with the ability to alter variables that change where money goes. Students in various categories can be accounted for in the formula and districts receive additional funds for them. Some categories include English language learners, special needs students, and gifted and talented students.

Depending on how the formula is set up, school districts can come out in the black or in the red.

Among those speaking to the joint committee was Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, who supports a change, but asked the committee to address about a dozen potential problems she saw in the legislation. She said the payment schedule in the legislation could cause a cash-flow problem and leave school districts unable to pay bills. Another problem was the possibility of some school districts losing money.

Many speakers spoke in opposition to a wealth adjustment in the funding formula intended to help poorer districts, and committee leaders say it’s possible that could be eliminated from the draft legislation.

Some education professionals who spoke also worried about how the new legislation could affect the state’s career ladder that’s intended to boost teacher pay.  (AP)