Spending more doesn’t guarantee getting more out of public education.
But without minimal funding, maximum results are nearly impossible.
Since the Great Recession, Idaho, like many other states, has failed to make K-12 ends meet. Consider the most current school funding research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
• At least 31 states provided less state funding per student in the 2014 school year than in the 2008 school year. In at least 15 states, the cuts exceeded 10 percent.
• Idaho’s inflation-adjusted cuts amount to a drop of 16.9 percent in that span. Only Arizona (-23.3 percent) and Alabama (-21.4 percent) are worse.
While Idaho is finally making progress, thanks to the Legislature adopting key recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force on Education, our public schools still face an uphill battle. Just before the Great Recession, Idaho cut education funding dramatically and shifted much of its constitutionally mandated financial responsibility directly onto local taxpayers. Over that time, Idaho voters have voluntarily assessed themselves more than $1 billion in supplemental property tax levies to fill the funding void.
Today, if patrons in a district want reasonably sized classrooms, they have to pay for more teachers and more classrooms themselves. If they need a new school, they have to pay for it themselves. In fact, if people want anything more than the bare minimum in public education, they have to pay for it themselves.
That’s the reality the school boards, administrations, staffs and faculties of Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Lakeland, Kootenai and Plummer-Worley districts are facing today. The state provides funding that essentially keeps the lights on, the doors open, school buses running and minimum academic standards within reach. Despite that, excellence occurs; in some places it abounds. Oddly enough, districts with the strongest support of their patrons tend to outscore, outshine and outachieve their less-supported peers.
At stake on March 14 are essential local funding requests from Kootenai County’s school districts. They would have been justified in asking voters for more; in some cases, much more. But each showed restraint and respect for taxpayers by prioritizing prudently. The requests are all geared toward improving the teaching and learning environment in our schools. Coeur d’Alene is also seeking support for a bond issue that’s necessary to meet the demands of growth the nearly 11,000-student district has seen in recent years; growth that’s projected to continue.
In addition to the news stories and opinion pieces published in this newspaper over the past few months, here are sources to learn details about the districts’ requests:
Coeur d’Alene: http://www.cdaschools.org/
Post Falls: http://www.pfsd.com/
The editorial board of this newspaper believes your children, your grandchildren and your neighbors’ children deserve the best education we — together — can provide. That’s why we strongly encourage your “yes” vote on March 14.