When we shortchange our children, we shortchange our future. Inadequate school investment means we can’t retain qualified teachers, offer specialized courses like career technical training, serve students Monday through Friday, and much more.

Despite Republicans touting increased funding for Idaho schools, the real story is coming out in recent news reports. Coeur d’Alene trustees were forced to close an elementary school due to a looming deficit. The Idaho Falls School District must cut 20 full-time teachers for the upcoming year. Four-day school weeks have become common in rural districts. Now, the Nampa School District is making this move. Many other districts, including Blaine County and Mountain View, face similar decisions.

Simply put, our schools are underfunded. According to new data from the National Education Association, Idaho remains last in the nation for per-student spending.

The state’s unfair and outdated funding formula contributes to this financial strain. We promised our schools a $381 million boost in 2022, but a significant portion was clawed back after state officials rescinded a temporary rule that funded schools based on enrollment. This has left districts resorting to drastic measures.

Decades of school building neglect have also taken their toll. While the legislature provided some relief in the form of $1 billion spread over a decade, the funds fall far short of the urgent infrastructure needs, not to mention the additional strain caused by explosive population growth.

Middleton exemplifies this with two of the district’s three elementary schools well above capacity. Unfortunately, the lack of state-level assistance for capital funding means local bonds remain the primary financing source for new buildings. However, the two-thirds supermajority required to pass bonds makes it difficult for communities to make this investment, even when most voters support it.

Despite the reliance on levies and bonds to bridge funding gaps, last year, Republican legislators eliminated the March election districts often use. This year, Republican lawmakers eliminated the August election. Faced with few options, the Middleton City Council passed an ordinance restricting developers from building subdivisions that would overcrowd schools, even though we desperately need new homes in the region. The Kuna and Vallivue school districts are in similar positions.

Solutions to these challenges are clear but require political will.

We must prioritize education investment over revenue cuts benefiting the ultra-wealthy. These most recently provided $52 in tax savings for a family earning $80,000 and $1,019 for a household, bringing in $1 million while reducing revenue up to $75 million. We must reform the school funding formula to reflect enrollment and deliver on promises. Equally important, we cannot fall for school voucher schemes.

Voters must elect leaders committed to adequately funding public education and ensuring every student has the opportunity to succeed.


Lauren Necochea
Idaho Democratic Party Chair