Q&A: Economist Mike Ferguson Questions Whether Idaho Is Adequately Funding Education

Apr 18, 2012

The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy released a report last week questioning the constitutionality of Idaho’s education funding system.  Director of the center and former longtime chief state economist Mike Ferguson authored the report.  Two of the largest stakeholders involved, the Idaho Department of Education and the Idaho Education Association have yet to weigh in beyond an initial reaction statement. 

We recently sat down with Ferguson to talk about the report, his findings and where he thinks the state should go from here. 

Q: Why did you decide to work on this report?

A: My intent going in was to look at the changes that had occurred in education funding since the great recession.  In particular, I was aware that there had been a pretty big increase in the use of supplemental override levies.  I also was aware that in 2006, property tax funding was swapped for sales tax funding.  That’s not a problem in and of itself, but what it did was leave only unequalized levies for doing these supplementals.

The other part that I guess really surprised me was the degree to which the funding effort declined.  That’s the change since 2000.  Over the 1980s and 90s, education funding fluctuated, but it was pretty stable, at about 4.5 percent of the state’s personal income.  The degree to which it dropped, the steadiness it dropped, just surprised me.  Continue reading...