Give Idaho an “A” for effort, but an “F” for low per-student spending.
For the sixth year in a row, Idaho is next to last in per-student public school funding, only ahead of its neighbor to the south, Utah, which is last, the U.S. Census says.
Idaho is tied for third in the nation in increasing its per-pupil spending, by jumping the cash put into schools by 7.6 percent last year.
Only the District of Columbia (13.7 percent); Nevada (9.5 percent); and Texas (7.6 percent); did as well or better.
Still, Idaho is way behind the national average in per-pupil spending.
Idaho spent $7,486 per student in 2017, the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The national average was $12,201 per student.
Clearly, Idaho, and its weak cousin Utah, would have to raise taxes to get anywhere near what the national average is.
And in very Republican states like these two, that just isn’t likely.
There are different ways to measure per-pupil spending. And there are arguments that that number alone isn’t a fair representation of how students in one state, or in one school district, are doing.
The National Education Association, the main national teacher union, for example, ranks Idaho last in per-student spending as it relates to teacher pay.
The NEA says Idaho teachers are making $10,000 a year less, on average, than their counterparts in other states, even though for the past two years Idaho teachers’ pay, as a percent increase, has risen substantially.
Teacher pay went up 3.6 percent, second in the nation, in the 2017-2018 school year.
Yet teachers in surrounding states (except Utah) can make $4,000 to $8,000 a year more, on average. And in Washington State, teachers make $72,000 a year compared to $50,000 a year in Idaho.
Still, in many states, like Idaho and Utah, students are doing better than second to last or last place in their test scores, high school graduation rates, and such.
It’s fair to say that Idaho, for the most part, gets a pretty good bang for its buck in public education spending vs. results.
The U.S. News and World Report’s evaluation on college-ready students ranks Idaho as 5th, a very good showing.
But college-ready is only one way to measure a student’s abilities upon high school graduation. And in other areas, the World Report ranks Idaho students as mediocre, or about average.
For example, Idaho’s high school graduation rate ranks only 40th in the nation.
Idaho’s four-year college graduation rate ranks 49th, only ahead of Alaska. (Now, Idaho college students may take five or six years to graduate, longer, but still getting a degree.)
And Idaho’s high school student SAT test scores, on average, did drop last year, not a good sign.
So, we can say that overall the Idaho Legislature and governor, along with the 90 school districts, are working pretty hard to fund the 285,000 public school students, K-12.
And while the education those students are getting has fairly good results, also, the state still has a lot of education challenges, especially in the funding areas.