Poll Results: Idaho Spends Under-Spending on Public Education

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Morley Nelson sixth graders on first day of school in 2021 Education spending is a hot topic in Idaho politics, and residents have expressed their views in a recent poll.

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From the editorial office: This story is part of a series on the results of the Idaho Statesman / SurveyUSA poll. Other results: abortion.

Nearly two-thirds of Idaho residents do not want taxpayers’ money to be used to finance private school education, according to new survey results commissioned by the Idaho Statesman.

A poll – conducted by the independent research firm SurveyUSA – asked 550 adults nationwide whether taxpayers’ money should be used to help residents pay for private school education, and whether Idaho spends too much, too little, or just enough money on public education .

According to the results, 63% of all adults surveyed said taxpayers’ money should not be used to help residents pay for private schools, while 23% of respondents said it should be used. The remaining 14% of respondents said they were unsure.

According to the poll, most Idaho residents feel that the state spends too little on education. About 58% of those polled said that the state spends too little, and a quarter of respondents said that the state spends the right amount. Only 8% of adults surveyed said Idaho spends too much on public education, and 9% are unsure.

[View the complete results here]

The results of the education survey were part of a nationwide Idaho Statesman / SurveyUSA survey on several controversial issues in Idaho. Results for questions related to abortion, marijuana, LGBTQ rights, and more will appear on IdahoStatesman.com this week. The survey was conducted on October 17-20, online and by telephone, and the adult pool of the surveyed adults was weighted according to the US Census targets for gender, age, race, education, and home ownership.

Idaho’s public school funding issues and the debate over whether public money should go to private schools have created tension.

According to a study by the National Education Association, Idaho was ranked 51st out of all 50 states and Washington in the last few years in terms of student spending.

School districts have difficulty attracting and retaining teachers and classified staff, providing employees with adequate wages and benefits, maintaining aging facilities, and financing new construction.

In the last legislative session, Idaho lawmakers increased funding for education by about 11%, and earlier this year, the legislature allocated another $ 330 million to public education in primary and secondary schools in a dedicated session. Lawmakers will decide how to spend this money at the next legislative session.

Educational groups say the investments are a move away from the chronic under-funding of public education by the state, but that is only the beginning.

Some also fear that the money will go to private schools.

In recent years, legislators have proposed various bills for school vouchers or educational savings accounts, but none have become law.

At the last session, lawmakers narrowly rejected the bill in the committee that would create scholarship accounts that families could use for tuition and student fees at private K-12 schools. It would allocate money from the budget of state public schools for scholarships. Critics of the bill said it would hurt public schools and did not constitute constitutional use of state dollars.

Educational groups, including the Idaho Education Association and the Idaho School Boards Association, strongly opposed the voucher programs. They said schools in Idaho were already running out of funding, and taking money from public schools to private schools would only make matters worse. The state also has few private schools outside of urban areas, and private schools have less oversight and responsibility compared to public schools.

However, supporters of the idea argue that families should be able to identify the best schools for their children. They also said that programs that allow public money to follow students to private schools could create more competition, which could improve public schools.

Who supports or opposes more funding for education?

The survey found that there are divisions among conservative and liberal adult respondents as to whether Idaho is adequately funding public education and whether they believe taxpayer dollars should be used to pay for private school education.

While only 8% of all residents said Idaho spends too much money on public education, 20% of adults who described themselves as “very conservative” agreed, and 9% were conservative. About a third (32%) of very conservative respondents said Idaho was spending enough money on education, and 41% said the state was under-spending.

Among respondents who described themselves as liberal, 84% said Idaho spends too little on public education, and 13% said the state spends the right amount.

More than two-thirds of Latin American adults and 58% of white adults say the state spends too little on education. About a quarter of white adults said Idaho seemed more or less right, compared with 14% of Hispanic respondents who said the same.

Most people aged 18-64 say Idaho spends too little on education, but among adults over 65, slightly less than half (47%) agreed.

Over 40% of very conservative respondents and 33% of Evangelicals said that taxpayers’ money should be used to help residents pay for private schools. Even so, nearly half (49%) of very conservative residents say taxpayers’ money should not be used in this way.

Among liberal respondents, only 10% said taxpayers’ money should be used to help people pay for private schools, and 79% said they did not.

Flash point school coupons in curatorial race

Candidates for the superintendent of public education have repeatedly argued about their views on the choice of school and whether the state should allow public funds to follow students to private schools.

Democrat candidate Terry Gilbert, a former teacher, often referred to “vouchers of vouchers,” a term he coined to talk about groups he said were jostling school vouchers and spreading negative rumors about public schools.

That said, the state already has a choice of school. Idaho families may choose to send their children to public schools, charter or private schools, or home school.

Debbie Critchfield, the Republican candidate and former president of the State Board of Education, said public schools were her priority.

“We don’t want to define public schools, and it shouldn’t be risky for rural schools,” Critchfield said in a debate last week. “I would like to see a thoughtful and balanced approach to how we handle it.”

She said the state already allows parents to make decisions about their children’s education through various programs.

“I don’t want to take off the public school pie,” she told the Statesman. “Everything we look at above and beyond, I believe must come from an existing curriculum outside of the public school budgets.”

Related stories from Idaho Statesman

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Becca Savransky is an Idaho statesman in education. He is a member of the Report for America Corps, whose position is partially funded by community donations. Click here to make a donation to fund her items. Becca graduated from Northwestern University and previously worked at Seattlepi.com and The Hill.
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