What Could $360 Million Buy for Idaho’s Public Schools?

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Idahoans pride themselves on being fiscally responsible and committed to developing a strong and sustainable economy. Ensuring that state tax dollars are being used to further these goals requires understanding the impact of budget decisions.

A major budget change was proposed during the 2023 legislative session: the creation of a universal private school voucher program that would have diverted significant taxpayer funds to private education. The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy estimated that the proposal could cost upwards of $360 million annually.1

Despite how often words like million and billion are used in these important policy conversations, research shows it is difficult to conceptualize numbers higher than 1 million.2 So, what could $360 million provide for Idaho’s public schools?

Idaho lawmakers should reject any attempts to establish a voucher program and instead focus on adequately funding the state’s public schools and investing in evidence-based and cost-effective strategies that have been shown to improve student outcomes.3

This resource is a collaboration between the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, a nonpartisan organization committed to offering Idahoans high-quality fiscal research and analysis, and Public Funds Public Schools, a national campaign directed by the Education Law Center to ensure that public funds for education are used to support and strengthen public schools.

[1] Alejandra Cerna Rios, Future Costs of Idaho SB1038’s Universal Education Savings Accounts Projected to Rise Sharply, Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy (Feb. 20, 2023).

[2] David Landry, Noah Silbert., Aleah Goldin, Estimating large numbers. Cognitive Science (2013), 37(5), 775-799.

[3] Mary McKillip & Theresa Luhm, Investing Additional Resources in Schools Serving Low-Income Students, Education Law Center (Apr. 2020); Education Law Center, Money Matters: Evidence Supporting Greater Investment in PK-12 Public Education Research Talking Points for Advocates (Mar. 2023).

[4] Richert, Kevin, ‘An Absolute budget buster:’ Committee takes a sobering look at special education, Idaho Ed News (Oct. 30, 2023).

[5] Idaho State Board of Education, Idaho’s teacher shortage problem persists (2022); Idaho Department of Education. Statewide Certified Staff Salary Report (Oct. 20, 2023).

[6] Idaho Department of Education, Statewide Non-Certificated Staff Salary Report (2023); Idaho Department of Education, Student Transportation (2023).

[7] Idaho Legislature, Office of Performance Evaluations, K-12 Public School Buildings (Jan. 7, 2022).

[8] Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy email correspondence with Idaho Association of School Business Officials.

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