Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Latest Census Report Doesn’t Tell the Full Story

Did you know that about half of Idaho’s state revenues are spent on Idaho’s K-12 public schools each year? That's well above the national average of just 34 percent.

You wouldn't know that that by looking at the latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau on per-pupil spending. This report is published and always shows Idaho and Utah near the bottom in rankings of per-pupil spending when compared to other states.

“It's really one of the only common standards we can measure across states. I've said this many times: it's why common academic standards are important,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said about the U.S. Census Bureau report. “It's difficult to compare how states do academically. NAEP is only a sampling of students, and you can't get down to the school level. If the only way you can compare schools is based on how much we spend per student, then it's going to get a lot of attention. It's important information. I don’t take it lightly. But it's also important to compare our students to how students in other states do academically.  I hope academically gets as much attention, and with the Common Core State Standards we will get that.”

Idaho voluntarily chose to adopt the Common Core State Standards in 2011, making them Idaho’s Core Standards in mathematics and English language arts. This means Idaho now has similar standards in these two core subject areas with 44 other states across the country and will be able to finally compare how Idaho’s students perform academically with students in a majority of other states.

“How students perform academically should be as important, and it will then have an impact on what we do spend,” Superintendent Luna added.

Superintendent Luna also pointed out that Idaho spends about 47 percent of its general fund state revenues on education per year. During the recession, K-12 education made up more than 50 percent of the state budget. Idaho is well above average in its commitment of state revenues. According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, states on average dedicated just 34 percent of state revenues to K-12 public schools in a given year. 

Superintendent Luna has worked in education at the local, state and federal levels. “I’ve never said take some of this money back. We can’t find places to spend it. But while looking for more revenue, we have to look at what we’re currently spending and make sure we’re getting efficient use of it,” Superintendent Luna said. “I recognize the important role money plays in education, but I recognize we have to spend what we have most efficiently.”

You can also read Idaho Education News for more information on the latest Census report.

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