Do Our Legislators REALLY Care About Education in Idaho?

February 16, 2016 – Miranda Marquit –

We hear a lot about education in Idaho. In fact, it’s been a big deal in recent years as we collectively try to figure out how to stem the exodus of talented teachers from the state.


Class sizes seem to grow, and, according to the panel of educators that joined us for Pizza & Politics earlier this month, many teachers feel disrespected and beat down by the lawmakers in the state.

Education in Idaho Major issue

Even though the House has been quick to pass a bill designed to increase education funding, the reality is that it’s still unlikely to be adequate to bring us up to speed. Even the governor’s ask of a 7.9% increase in education funding would only bring us up to 2009 levels, and we’re already to 2016, and the gap between our state and every other state continues to widen. But reaching 2009 levels is likely a pipe dream since the legislature is only looking to pass an increase of 7.4%.

Right now, Idaho ranks #49 in education funding and #46 overall in education. The main bright spot the fact Idaho ranks #23 in knowledge (which is average) and #13 in graduation rates. This reflects the monumental efforts of our teachers to help their students, in spite of difficulties.

The problem is that the future might not look as bright. Education in Idaho might fall through the cracks if funding fails to keep up with need, and if we keep losing teachers to surrounding states.

Plus, the funding gap between Idaho and other states means that Idaho might not have the resources to keep up in terms of technology and other items. We’re falling behind in pre-K, and even though graduation rates are high, the value of a higher education doesn’t seem to be sinking in.

Teachers Feel Disrespected by Legislators

The educators that joined us for Pizza & Politics, Jana Jones, Angela Gilman, and Billie Wixom all spoke of feeling disrespected by the legislature. There are plenty of mandates for teachers, and insistence on teaching to tests and on measuring progress, but funding for these mandates rarely materializes, and teachers — even those who love their jobs — burn out quickly.

In fact, there are legislators who feel that funding for public education is a “black hole,” expressing those feelings in legislative debate.

Legislators and Education in Idaho

It’s hard to feel like you matter when legislators don’t think our children are worth educating, and our teachers aren’t worth paying.

The only state bordering Idaho that pays its teachers less is Montana. In border areas, it’s becoming increasingly common for teachers to get jobs in better-paying states.

But it’s not only about the pay, although better pay would be nice. Not only are teachers being paid less and still performing quite well, all things considered, they are also poorly treated by many members of the legislature.

Idaho’s funding of public education is not up to snuff. Education in Idaho, in general, is slipping. Policymakers claim they have plans to increase pay and reduce classroom sizes, but it’s hard to see how that can happen when legislators aren’t ready to put the money where their mouths are.

How do we get smaller class sizes when teacher pay is so low that it’s hard to recruit?

On top of that, how do we keep good teachers when pay increases cap out faster (and lower) than many other states? Our panel of educators pointed out that the pay caps in Idaho can be frustrating, especially since many teachers try hard to “make the right choices” and still end up with overwhelming student debt that they can’t pay off because of their low salaries in Idaho.

Another issue is that of professional development. Even though there is some money for professional development, our panel members said that it wasn’t enough and that there hasn’t been much help for them, no matter what legislators say they are doing — or want to do.

Education in Idaho is under-funded. Senator Brent Hill, in December, speaking to the Idaho Falls City Club, said that Idaho has been under-funding public education for years. Efforts being made now are too little too late. For all the lip service our legislators and other politicians pay to education in Idaho, the reality is that it isn’t a true priority.

Priorities education in idaho

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Miranda Marquit HeadshotMiranda Marquit is a freelance financial journalist and money expert. She has a keen interest in politics and social justice and is excited to share news of interest to citizens in Bonneville County. Miranda enjoys reading, the outdoors and spending time with her son. She writes at Planting Money Seeds and Progressive Mormon Mom.

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