Idaho residents think the state's public education system is below average, and they believe using state money to fund charter schools and preschool education would help it improve.
A new Idaho Politics Weekly survey finds 53% of state residents think the state's education system is below average when compared to other states. About a third (32%) say it's about the same. Just 8% say it is above average.
Republicans are more satisfied with Idaho's public education than other groups. Just 41% of Republicans think it's below average while 77% of Democrats and 55% of independent voters feel that way.
There are two ideas that could boost the state's public education - funding preschool education and giving state money to charter schools.
The survey shows more than 2/3rds of Idahoans (69%) support spending state money on early childhood education. Idaho is one of the six states that does not fund preschool.
Support for the idea cuts across partisan lines. 57% of Republicans, 89% of Democrats and 75% of independent voters either "strongly" or "somewhat" support spending money on preschool.
State testing of incoming kindergartners finds more than half of them do not have the reading skills they need to start school, meaning they have to play catch up from day one.
Idahoans would also support using taxpayer money to fund charter schools. 66% say they would support that idea, which is about the same number as those favoring preschool funding.
Support for giving money to charter schools also spans most ideological lines. 72% of Republicans and 67% of political independents are behind the idea. However, Democrats are split, with 48% in support and 46% opposed.
The Idaho House passed HB 579 sponsored by Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, which could boost funding for charter schools. The measure allows school districts and alternative schools, like charter schools, to decide when to calculate attendance figures - either during the first ten weeks of the school year or their best 28-week period. That could help charter schools who often experience volatile attendance. The bill has drawn fire from education groups who worry the measure would draw funding away from public schools.
The survey was conducted by Dan Jones and Associates for Idaho Politics Weekly from February 17-25 among 607 Idaho residents. It has a margin of error of +/- 4%.