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Project Idaho: Addressing school funding

Legislation for Idaho’s school funding formula has been in the works for around three years and the lawmakers are now working to address concerns with the formula's first draft. (File Photo)

Legislation for Idaho’s school funding formula has been in the works for around three years and the lawmakers are now working to address concerns with the formula's first draft.

The goal is to replace a system that state officials say is now only used by a handful of states.

“We want to move from basing funding on attendance to students enrollment," said Sherri Ybarra, superintendent of public instruction. "So bodies in the classroom basically. Not how many times a kid shows up for school.

A video used by the public school funding formula interim committee explains how much Idaho education has changed since the current funding formula system was put into place.

“Idaho’s current funding formula was developed decades ago when every student attended their brick and mortar neighborhood school for the whole school day,” said the video's narrator.

Over the years changes have been made to address new ways of learning and increased student mobility but each time a change was made it became more complicated.

"Under current law Idaho's funding formula is a complicated web of 35 different state line items, each with own set of rules, regulations and mandates," said the video's narrator.

“It’s very confusing. It’s very complex and it’s about 20 years old. And so it’s time for an update” said Ybarra.

In the most simplified terms under a student centered funding formula “every district receives a base amount of funding per student. The more students a district educates the more money the district receives.”

During a planned listening session superintendents, teachers, parents, and education officials presented their comments and concerns about the 59 page draft legislation to lawmakers on the Idaho house and senate education committees.

Many stressed the importance of taking the time to address each concern.

“Whatever the legislature passes will be in place for the next generation or two of students to come through," said Kari Overall, president of the Idaho Education Association. "How we fund our schools is too important of an issue to not get right.”

Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer said he expects new funding legislation to be introduced in the following weeks after the committees work through the suggested changes.

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CBS 2 and the Idaho Press are teaming up to educate our audience about the education funding discussion taking place in the Legislature. Representatives will join CBS 2’s Brent Hunsaker and Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press. Watch the Town Hall on Idaho education funding here.

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