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Idaho education leaders express support for proposal to funnel more money to public schools

Screenshot from Idaho Board of Education virtual meeting
The Idaho Board of Education discussed the proposed extra spending for schools during its meeting on Wednesday.

Governor Brad Little says the concept is part of a bill that will be considered during a September 1 special legislative session.

Idaho’s schools may get a big windfall, thanks to a proposal by Governor Brad Little. He announced this week that he will introduce to a special session of the legislature that the state permanently increase spending for public schools by about $400 million a year.

Idaho Board of Education members on Wednesday expressed their support.

“If we do nothing else, we have to move the literacy dial in K-12, because that’s what we should be able to move quickly," said Board of Education President Kurt Liebich. "I think it’s really going to be important, if we want to see continued investments in education, that we start seeing those numbers move and move quickly.”

Liebich praised the governor and legislature for consistent increases in education funding over the last several years, especially in raising salary levels for teachers. Still, the average teacher salary in Idaho ranked 33rd in the nation during the 20-21 school year, according to the website business.org.

Outgoing state superintendent Sherri Ybarra said the money will help the state fund some of its priorities, such as improving literacy rates.

“It’ll be a great ending to a term to watch this happen for public education," Ybarra said. "I do have my concerns, though, about staffing and you can only do so much. If we don’t plug in some of those holes that we have at the district level, but I know this board is in a position to continue that work and to look at those staffing issues that we’re having nationwide.”

Little has called legislators back to Boise for a one-day session on September 1. He proposes that the state funnel $330 million in state sales tax money to K-12 schools and another $80 million to colleges and universities. He’s also proposed a one-time tax refund of up to $500 million.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.