Education Funding

Idaho legislators are in the midst of their 2019 general session, and a new Idaho Politics Weekly poll finds that increasing public education funding is the most important item lawmakers can do.

The survey, by Dan Jones & Associates (DJA), also finds that the second most important item is economic development, followed by funding roads, campaign finance reform and limits, and Medicaid expansion funding. Cutting taxes has the least support among the six priorities.

Considering that cutting taxes comes in last among the major issues before lawmakers, it is clear Idahoans want their tax dollars well spent, and on programs they like, such as education, but they don’t expect tax cuts this year.

   You can find your legislator and read the bills here.

   DJA asked, on a scale of 1 to 5, how important each issue is to Idahoans. One and 2 mean little importance, 3 is neutral, and 4 and 5 mean significantly important.

   Here are the numbers:

   -- Increasing spending on education: 74 percent said it was very important to them, only 10 percent said it wasn’t important, 16 percent were neutral, and 1 percent didn’t know.

   -- Promoting economic development: 67 percent said very important, 7 percent said not important, 24 percent (or one fourth) were neutral, it didn’t matter much to them, and 1 percent didn’t know.

   -- Fund transportation improvements: 55 percent said it is very important, 12 percent said it is not important, 32 percent (or one-third) said it doesn’t matter much to them, and 1 percent didn’t know.

   -- Campaign finance reforms to add more transparency and contribution limits: 54 percent said that is very important to them, 20 percent said it wasn’t, 23 percent were neutral, and 3 percent didn’t know.

   -- 53 percent said Medicaid expansion funding (it passed on the ballot in November) was very important, 28 percent said it wasn’t, 17 percent were neutral, and 1 percent didn’t know.

   -- Finally, only 43 percent said cutting state taxes was very important for them, 25 percent said it wasn’t, 31 percent were neutral on it, and 2 percent didn’t know.

   Just this past week, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that Medicaid expansion, Prop 2, which passed the ballot with 61 percent of the vote, is in fact legal. Legislators must still provide funding for full expansion.

Some GOP legislators are talking about restricting full Medicaid expansion, which Prop 2 calls for and would provide health care to about 62,000 low-income residents.

Medicaid expansion was on the ballot last year in a number of states, and passed in Utah, like it did in Idaho.

The Utah Legislature has, however, passed a modified Medicaid expansion law that is somewhat more restrictive than full Medicaid expansion – which Beehive voters approved.

Now a similar, more restrictive, bill could come forward the Idaho Legislature, as well.

Some Idaho lawmakers are thinking about overhauling the state’s basic public education funding formula.

You can read about that here.

The bill is the result of a year-long study, but is still controversial.

The latest budget analysis shows that 39 school districts in the state would actually lose tax dollars under the plan.

But proponents say it is time Idaho adopts a more realistic public school funding formula, one that follows students as they move from one school to another, or take online courses, or move along non-traditional education tracks.

Idaho ranks second-to-last in per-pupil spending, only behind Utah.

DJA polled 615 adults from Jan. 23 to Feb. 4. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.