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Focusing education funding on outcomes

The state of Idaho has followed a national trend in increasing the amount of state funding going to K-12 public schools. In fact, over the past decade, Idaho has nearly doubled the amount it spends on K-12 education.


Other states have followed the same path, dramatically increasing funding to the point where the public education budget makes up at least half of the overall state general fund budget.


Are students receiving a better education for these increases? Is there any correlation between spending more and outcomes? Unfortunately, in most states, the answer is no.


Last year, we wrote this column calling on policymakers to answer several questions before increasing education funding: what amount of spending, per student, will be sufficient and how will we know when we are spending enough? In other words, what is our goal and what are we trying to achieve?


At the beginning of the latest legislative sessions, we recommended lawmakers require benchmarks and student results for increased education funding. Now, they will have that opportunity.


House Bill 557 phases in outcomes-based funding in Idaho. This means that schools and school districts will have an incentive to meet targets in student achievement, including math proficiency and growth in grades 5-8, as well as attainment of credentials for high school students necessary to transition to the workforce for postsecondary education.


It won’t just be about student attendance or enrollment. Starting in 2025, the amount of state funding specified for outcomes-based funding will include up to 10% of discretionary funding. And the total will increase 10% each year through 2028.


The legislation also calls for the legislature to review the program every five years.


In the end, outcomes-based funding encourages districts to focus on student performance, and not just enrollment. In the effort to improve the student outcomes, it is a policy worth pursuing.

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