This article originally appeared on the Idaho Education Association website on February 1, 2019

The legislature has released a 59-page draft version of a bill related to changing Idaho’s public school funding formula. It is a first attempt to translate spreadsheets and numerical data into language that could be the basis of a new formula for how the state distributes funds to public school districts and charter schools. The release of draft language represents a departure from the norm at the Idaho legislature, where committees typically vote to print a bill before unveiling the language. You can read the draft legislation here.

This is just the latest step in a process that began some three years ago when an interim committee was convened to study Idaho public school funding formula, which had not been updated since 1994. The interim committee released recommendations and handed the baton off to the House and Senate Education Committees, which have the authority to propose legislation. The next step will be a “listening session” held by the joint education committees in the Lincoln Auditorium this Thursday, February 7, at 3:00 p.m. Live streaming of that session will be available via Idaho in Session. The IEA and other education stakeholders will be providing initial feedback during this meeting.

The proposed formula would move Idaho from an attendance-based system to an enrollment-based system and would also factor in extra “weights” for students in categories such as Special Education, English Language Learners, Gifted and Talented, and At-Risk. There could also be adjustments based on school size, geographic location, and property values.

The IEA is still reviewing the extensive draft language, but we and other education stakeholders have significant big-picture concerns that the funding formula change has been framed as a “zero-sum game” by the legislature. Taking the same amount of money and carving it up differently will create winners and losers among school districts, even with a “hold harmless” provision. When Idaho last revised its public school funding formula in 1994, the legislature added nearly 20% in additional funds to ease the transition.

IEA President, State Superintendent Appear on KTVB’s Viewpoint

KTVB-TV in Boise invited IEA President Kari Overall and State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra to appear on their public affairs program Viewpoint this week. In separate interviews, both talked about the importance of teacher retention and the need to more appropriately compensate Idaho’s veteran teachers. Other topics of conversation include a proposed new task force that would create Idaho’s next long-term strategic plan for public education, supporting and mentoring new teachers, advanced opportunities for students, and school safety.

The show was taped Thursday and will air Sunday at 6:30 a.m. on KTVB (Channel 7 in Boise) and several times throughout the day Sunday on KTVB’s 24/7 channel. An archived version of the show will be available on the show’s web page early next week.

Turnaround Schools Bill Introduced in Senate Education Committee

SB 1029 was presented by its sponsor, Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls. This bill would allow schools that rank in the lowest five percent in the state to voluntarily obtain help aimed at improving their performance. Part of that help would be access to professional turnaround consultants, with the state footing the bill for their services. Mortimer is requesting an additional $1.25 million to go along with existing funds targeted at assisting low-performing schools. The committee voted to send SB 1029 to the Senate floor with a “do pass” recommendation.

Sen. Dean Mortimer presents his turnaround schools legislation