Several of Idaho’s largest school districts are calling for changes to the way districts drum up local funds. They say the state should do more to help, and they’re offering proposals ahead of the 2020 legislative session.

These “resolutions” will be considered during the Idaho School Boards Association’s annual convention next month in Coeur d’Alene. The three-day conference ends with trustees from across Idaho voting to accept or reject a series of resolutions aimed at shaping ISBA’s top lobbying priorities ahead of the session.

Here’s a look at this year’s resolutions tied to local funding:

School bond issues. For the second straight year, Idaho’s largest school district drafted a resolution asking the state to pick up a larger share of payments on school bond issues.

The West Ada School District wants state sales tax revenues to cover half the cost of school facility bonds. A similar resolution drafted by West Ada failed at last year’s ISBA conference.

School bond issues are funded locally through a two-thirds supermajority of votes. The state subsidizes interest on bond issue payments, but the measures are bankrolled primarily by property taxes from local home and business owners.

The goal, according to the resolution, “is to make funding school building repairs and construction a cost that is shared among all taxpayers.”

Bonneville district Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme also recently lamented the process for funding bond issues. Though East Idaho’s largest — and growing — school district didn’t draft a 2020 ISBA resolution, Woolstenhulme told EdNews that the state should cover building costs.

Task force on property tax reform. The Nampa School District wants lawmakers or Gov. Brad Little to form an interim task force to study reforming the way property taxes flow to K-12 schools.

Nearly all districts pad their budgets with local supplemental levies. But the process fuels a host of inequities. One recent statewide study shows that local funding disparities hit students of color the hardest.

Nampa says a committee comprised of lawmakers, taxpayers and stakeholders could help “ensure Idaho’s constitutional obligation to provide a uniform and thorough system of education is being met.”

Further reading: A 2006 tax overhaul changed how Idaho funds its schools. Since then, supplemental levies have spiked. Click here for a detailed EdNews series on the tax shift.

Principles for a new funding formula. Also citing difficulties and disparities stemming from local funding, Boise’s 2020 resolution calls for several guiding principles to inform ongoing efforts to overhaul Idaho’s K-12 funding formula.

Idaho has spent three years considering changing from an attendance-based formula to one based on enrollment. Lawmakers last session passed a pared-down funding formula “definitions” bill, but the push for full revision died during the session.

Lawmakers could resurrect their efforts in 2020. Boise suggests several guidelines:

  • Predictability: A new funding model should accurately predict future budgets.
  • Adequacy: It should provide sufficient funding for districts and charter schools to provide “essentials” to students.
  • Transparency: The process should be clear for districts and charters.
  • Stability: There should be no funding “cliffs” from year to year.
  • Equitability: It should differentiate between districts and charters in a way that “recognizes their unique needs.”
  • Holding districts “harmless”: No district or charter should lose funding in the process, and a new model should consider districts grappling with population growth.

Originally posted on on October 9, 2019


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