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Public education in Idaho

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K-12 Education in Idaho
State Superintendent: Tom Luna
Number of students: 279,873[1]
Number of teachers: 15,990
Teacher/pupil ratio: 1:17.5
Number of school districts: 149
Number of schools: 762
Graduation rate: 92%[2]
Per-pupil spending: $6,824[3]
See also
Public education in Idaho
Idaho State Department of Education
Idaho school districts
List of school districts in Idaho
The Idaho public school system (prekindergarten-grade 12) operates within districts governed by locally elected school board members and superintendents. Idaho has 88 school districts.

The Idaho state constitution requires that the state legislature establish and maintain "general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools."[4] Additionally, the legislatures may require that children attend public school between the ages of 6 and 18 years, unless they are educated by other legally accepted means.[5]

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has outlined plans to reform the Iowa education system by increasing technology in classrooms and increasing the number of students per classroom.[6] This proposal included a $50 million upgrade in technology in the classrooms.

School revenues, expenditures and budget

See also: Idaho state budget
Idaho's education costs are 41% of the state budget

Idaho's school spending per pupil ranked 50th in the nation for both 2010 and 2011, according to figures from the U.S. Census.[7]

The total state fund for FY 2009 was $6.64 billion. Education accounted for $2.69 billion, 40.5 percent, of the total state fund. The education fund covers five main departments: elementary and secondary education - $1.95 billion; higher education - $517 million; prof. tech. education - $66.2 million; agricultural research - $34.3 million; and all other education necessities - $116.3 million.[8] The cost per pupil is $6,391, ranking 50th in the nation according the U.S. Census Bureau 2007-2008 report.[9]

Idaho accepted $51 million from the education bailout, with the largest amounts going to Meridian Joint School District with $5.9 million and Boise School District which was set to receive about $4.6 million.[10] The school system also received a $125,000 federal grant to stop and prevent underage drinking, suicide, bullying and truancy.[11]

Up to 2010, the Idaho Education Network (IEN), a statewide program that brings broadband Internet access to schools, was funded by federal dollars and a $6 million grant from the Albertson Foundation. When the grant runs out, the cost was expected to be transferred over to the state and the federal e-rate tax.[12]

Higher education

Universities in Idaho have received $24 million in stimulus dollars for science programs.[13] Also, in December 2010, public universities overturned the 10 percent cap on tuition hikes.[14]

However, higher education was expected to see a $2.8 million drop in state funding, in addition to the $32 million drop in 2010. As a result many of the schools raised tuition by 8.75 percent.[15]

Personnel salaries

According to the American Federation of Teachers, Idaho ranked 30th in the nation for average teacher salary for the 2006-07 school year. In the 2006-07 school year the average teacher salary was $45,094, a 3.9 percent increase from 2005-06. Idaho ranked 41st in beginning teacher salaries - $30,000, a 9.1 percent increase from 2005-06.

In terms of charter schools in the 2006-07 school year, the average salary was $42,978, whereas the beginning teacher salary was $30,000.[16]

School year Average annual teacher salary Average beginning teacher salary
2006-2007 $45,094[16] $30,000[16]
2005-2006 $43,335[16] $27,270[16]
2003-2004 $40,111[17] $25,908[17]
2002-2003 $39,790[17] $25,726[17]

Teacher performance

Idaho school administrations have spent $30,000 on iPads, which principals are using to collect data on teacher performance. Principals are hoping this additional data will make it easier to evaluate and fire bad teachers.[18]

Idaho State professor

As of 2010, an Idaho State University (ISU) professor had been suspended since 2006 after being indicted for allegedly mailing a letter to a bank trustee threatening to send him mail with a substance that may contain the hantavirus. Since the professor's suspension, he continued to receive an annual salary of close to $70,000.[19]

Role of unions

The main union related to the Idaho school system is Idaho Education Association (IEA), an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA). IEA is the largest education association in the state. For the 2003 tax period IEA had: $4.5 million in total revenue, $4.3 million in total expenses and $3.3 million in total assets.[20]

List of local Idaho school unions:[21]


State Public Instruction Superintendent Tom Luna proposed an education reform package to overhaul the state's K-12 education system and lawmakers had approved two of three bills to reform Idaho's schools as of March 2011.[22]

Collective bargaining and tenure

The state legislature passed Senate Bill 1108, which limits teachers' collective bargaining rights to salary and benefits.[23] It removes issues such as class sizes, teacher workload and promotions from collective bargaining, and it permits collective bargaining only if the union can prove it represents more than 50 percent of employees.[24][25][26] It eliminates tenure for new teachers, with new educators instead being offered one- or two-year contracts following a three-year probationary period.[22][27]

Lawmakers also passed legislation that instituted merit pay bonuses to teachers for student achievement.[22]

Lawmakers were still considering another bill that was part of the overhaul to the education system in the state. It called for more technology in the classroom and required online courses and increased the number of students per classroom to pay for it.[22]

The entire overhaul plan would eliminate 770 teaching positions but would use $250 million to raise pay for teachers.[28] Gov. Otter supported the measures.[28]

The Idaho Education Association warned the plan would drastically cut the ability of unions to bargain.[28][29] Hundreds of teachers protested the bills on Feb. 21, 2011.[26]

Role of school boards

The State Board of Education serves as the general planning and coordinating body for public education. Specifically the board is responsible for educational, training, research, continuing education and service programs for Idaho citizens.[30] The state superintendent of public instruction also serves as the ex officio member of the school board.[31]

Taxpayer-funded lobbying

See also: Idaho government sector lobbying

The main education government sector lobbying organization is the Idaho School Boards Association.


In March 2010, the Idaho Senate and House approved a bill which made school districts with more than 300 students publish their school spending data.[32] The Department of Education does list information regarding the state's academic performance at the state, district and school levels.


A 2009 study, Leaders and Laggards, conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for a Competitive Workplace, Frederick M. Hess of the conservative American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, and the Center for American Progress, gave Idaho: "C" in academic achievement; "D" in truth in advertising about student proficiency; "C" in rigor of standards; "C" in post-secondary and workforce readiness; "C" in for its teacher workforce policies; "F" in data quality.[33]

Academic performance

The chart below details the percentage of students that scored either proficient or advanced in reading, language and mathematics on the state assessment exam Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) exam. AYP is used by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program to determine the academic performance of schools. The percentage of students that scored either proficient or advanced increased in the 2008-2009 school year. The greatest increase was seen in language, a 3.76 percent increase.[34] On a national scale, Idaho ranks 22nd for academic performance and recently earned a B- grade for its attempts to reform its educational system.[35]

Year Reading (%) Language (%) Mathematics (%)
2007-2008[34] 84.57 72.41 80.85
2008-2009[34] 88.15 76.17 81.57

The graduation rate in the 2006-2007 school year was 88.29 percent, whereas the 2007-2008 school year rate was 89.70 percent.[34] The House Education Committee approved early graduation rates for small districts, and also qualified those students for state scholarships.[36]

School district status

Below is a chart of the school districts' AYP status as of the end of the 2008-2009 school year.[34] To see results, click "show."

State Budget Solutions study

State Budget Solutions examined national trends in education from 2009-2011, including state-by-state analysis of education spending, graduation rates, and average ACT scores. The study shows that states that spend the most do not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor do they have the highest average graduation rates. A summary of the study is available here. Download the full report here.

State spending on education vs. academic performance 2012

State 2011 Total Spending[37] 2011 Education Spending[38] 2011 Percent Education Spending 2012 Total Spending[39] 2012 Education Spending[40] 2012 Percent Education Spending 2010 Avg. ACT score[41] 2011 Avg. ACT score[42] 2012 Avg. ACT score[43] 2010 Graduation Rate[44] 2011 Graduation Rate[45]
Idaho $11.5 billion $3.2 billion 27.8% $11.3 billion $3.3 billion 29.2% 21.8 21.7 21.6 80.4% 80.1%

Alcohol and drug survey

Every other year the State Department of Education conducts the Substance Use, Safety, and School Climate Survey, typically funded by the tobacco tax. In 2009, this survey was cut due to lack of funding, but in 2010 the DOE was asking for $60,000 to fund the survey from the Millennium Fund.[46]

School choice

School choice options include:

  • Charter schools: Idaho's charter school law was passed in 1998. Public charter schools operate independently from existing school districts but are still considered within the school system.[47] In 1998, Idaho had a total of 3 charter schools, however in the 2009 school year 37 charter schools were approved. Two of the 37 approved schools were statewide virtual charter schools.[48]
  • Public school open enrollment: The state of Idaho has two open enrollment policies: inter-district and intra-district. In other words, students are permitted to enroll in any school within their neighborhood school district or in any alternative district in the state.[49]
  • Online learning: The state of Idaho has a state-led online program called the Idaho Digital Learning Academy. Additionally, in 2007 Idaho had a reported four full-time online charter schools.[49]

External links


  1. National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12," accessed March 18, 2014
  2. ED Data Express, "State Tables Report," accessed March 17, 2014 The site includes this disclaimer: "States converted to an adjusted cohort graduation rate [starting in the 2010-2011 school year], which may or may not be the same as the calculation they used in prior years. Due to the potential differences, caution should be used when comparing graduation rates across states."
  3. United States Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011," accessed March 18, 2014
  4. State of Idaho Constitution "Article IX, Section 1," retrieved October 20, 2009
  5. State of Idaho Constitution "Article IX, Section 9," retrieved October 20, 2009
  6. Idaho Reporter Luna goes in-depth on reform package, Otter says plan opens world to students, Jan 12, 2011
  7. The Spokesman Review "Idaho school funding again ranks 50th in nation" June 27, 2012
  8. State of Idaho "General Fund Recommendation by State Goals," retrieved October 20, 2009
  9. Maine Watchdog Education Spending Per Child, July 6, 2010
  10. Watchdog Federal education jobs money allocated to Idaho districts, Aug. 23, 2010
  11. Idaho Reporter Idaho secures grant to improve school safety, Sept 21, 2010
  12. Idaho Reporter Schools broadband network could need state funding next year, Feb. 10, 2011
  13. Idaho Reporter Higher ed science stimulus spending $24 million in Idaho; Simpson says projects not worth debt, Oct. 27, 2010
  14. Idaho Reporter Public colleges can ask for big tuition increases next year, Dec. 9, 2010
  15. Idaho Reporter University leaders accept proposed higher ed cuts, Jan. 11, 2010
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 American Federation of Teachers "Idaho ranked 30th in the Nation for Teacher Pay," retrieved October 21, 2009
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 American Federation of Teachers "Idaho Ranks 32nd in the Nation for Teacher Pay," October 6, 2005
  18. Idaho Reporter Bad teachers, fear the iPad: official believes trendy machines could help identify poor performers, Dec. 17, 2010
  19. Idaho Reporter Suspended college professor collecting salary for almost four years, Dec. 23, 2010
  20. Center for Union Facts "Idaho Education Association," retrieved October 15, 2009
  21. Center for Union Facts "Idaho teachers unions," retrieved October 15, 2009
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 "Luna Confident Entire Ed Reform Will Pass" March 10, 2011
  23. "Idaho Votes to Phase Out Teacher Tenure, Restrict Collective Bargaining" March 9, 2011
  24. "Idaho Votes to Phase Out Teacher Tenure, Restrict Collective Bargaining" March 9, 2011
  25. "Idaho House passes Senate Bill 1108 48-22" March 8, 2011
  26. 26.0 26.1 Reuters "Idaho teachers unions protest against proposed cuts" Feb. 22, 2011
  27. "Idaho Cripples Union Power" March 9, 2011
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 All Headline News "Idaho teachers protest proposed overhaul" Feb. 22, 2011
  29. Idaho Education Association "Despite public opposition, Luna bills go to full Senate" Feb. 18, 2011
  30. Idaho State Board of Education "Institutional Role & Missions," October 27, 1998
  31. Idaho Constitution "Article IX, Section 2," retrieved October 20, 2009
  32. Kivi TV Senate OKs measure to boost schools transparency, March 29, 2010
  33. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute "Idaho Education Report Card," retrieved November 16, 2009
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 34.4 State of Idaho "Idaho report 08-09," retrieved October 20, 2009
  35. Watchdog Idaho ranked 22nd in education performance, receives ‘B-‘ grade for reforms, Sept. 14, 2010
  36. Idaho Reporter Education panel clears early graduation fix, nixes money for school board members, Feb. 7, 2011
  37. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  38. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  39. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  40. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  41. 2010 ACT National and State Scores "Average Scores by State"
  42. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  43. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  44. National Center for Education Statistics
  45. National Center for Education Statistics
  46. Idaho Reporter Education department wants to pay for drug and alcohol survey with tobacco settlement money, Dec. 9, 2010
  47. Idaho State Department of Education "Charter Schools," retrieved October 15, 2009
  48. Idaho State Department of Education "Charter school development by school and type 1998-2009," retrieved October 15, 2009
  49. 49.0 49.1 The Heritage Foundation "Idaho School Choice," retrieved October 15, 2009