Based on the experience in other states, it could take three to five years for Idaho to rewrite its school funding formula.
And based on Tuesday’s hearing, a panel of Idaho lawmakers doesn’t seem to be much interested in a rush job.
The Legislature’s Public School Funding Formula Committee made a couple of incremental decisions. They will ask a second legislative committee to spend the next few months looking at health care costs — a growing financial issue for school districts. They assigned legislative staff to pull together some additional data. And they agreed to meet again on Aug. 14.
The pace is slow. But the stakes are high.
The funding formula is the complicated and delicate mechanism that the state uses to carve up dollars for K-12. At nearly $1.7 billion in 2017-18, K-12 represents by far the biggest chunk of the state’s budget. But the formula hasn’t been reworked since 1994. That has forced legislators to shoehorn a host of new programs — from classroom technology to charter schools to 21st Century staffing demands — into a 20th Century funding blueprint.
At some point, if the state decides to redistribute its existing K-12 dollars, some districts and charters will collect more money, while others could absorb a funding hit.
The funding formula committee isn’t close to picking winners and losers, at least not yet. The committee might have computer-generated models and recommendations for the 2018 Legislature, but that’s not a hard and fast timetable. And it became no clearer Tuesday.