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School support

As Idaho legislators and citizens generally consider their options while Governor Jim Risch issues his call for a legislative session on property taxes, they may want to consider other pieces of the equation as well.

One of them is support for public schools. You can measure this in a wide variety of ways, but one of the more useful is this:

school support as measured by gemeral fund revenue

It shows what the state’s level of support for public schools, measured against actual income in the state, has done in the last few years.

You can, of course, check other measures too, including the number of raw dollars put into schools, and such a chart would show annual increases. But that doesn’t account for inflation, other costs, growth of population and communities, and so on. Measurement against the state’s general fund income may be a fairer measure, on the other hand, of what we are willing to invest.

The chart comes from a report released on Monday by the Idaho Center on Budget and Tax Policy at Moscow. Its director, Judith Brown, remarked that “It’s clear from this report that the state’s commitment to public education spending has declined in recent years. With all the talk about shifting school maintenance and operations from local control to the state General Fund, it’s important for Idahoans to know that the trend from the legislature is to dedicate less and less of the General Fund toward our children’s education.”

The report itself also has this intriguing bit:

“The previous charts and indicators identify FY2001 as a turning point in education funding in Idaho. 2001 of course was the beginning of the worst state fiscal crisis in 50 years, brought on by both a recession and by tax cuts enacted in many states during the last years of the economic boom. Fortunately, the fiscal crisis was much less severe in Idaho than in many states. 2001 as a turning point, however, does raise questions about how different states protected their commitments to public education through this difficult time. As shown in the chart below, many but not all states reduced real per pupil state aid for public education during and immediately following the state fiscal crisis. The average decline in real per pupil state aid was -4.0%. The decline in real per pupil state aid in Idaho was -5.8%. Although the recession and fiscal crisis in Idaho were milder than in the nation as a whole, Idaho cut back on funding for public education more than did most states. It is especially noteworthy that Idaho neighbors Oregon and Washington were both hit particularly hard by the recession and fiscal crisis, and yet both protected funding for their public schools better than did Idaho.”

Food for thought, as options get narrowed.

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