According to annual reports filed by the Idaho Department of Education,(see hotlinks to these reports on left) student enrollment from the 1996/1997 school year to the 2000/2001 school year, a four year period,has increased by only 125 students. These same reports show that during this same four year period of time, state funding has increased $181,000,000.00 and federal funding has increased $44,000,000.00 (this does not include any increases derived from property taxes or other revenue sources).
In other words, kindergarten through grade 12 enrollment, statewide, has gone up a mere 125 students since 1996/1997 and annual spending has increased over $225 million.
This information answers two important questions. First, we haven’t been stingy with the funds, they have been at least adequate. The second, more important question it answers is what I call the educational question of our generation. “WILL MORE MONEY ALONE IMPROVE SCHOOLS?” The evidence is in and the answer is an overwhelmingly NO! These same annual reports show that over the same four-year period of unprecedented funding increases, student test scores have remained flat or gone down.
We cannot contine to just talk about whether we will do 4% more or 4% less of what we did last year.
We must expand the discussion on education funding to include an examination of how we can better spend what we currently have. Every budget must be weighed against student achievement, every expenditure must be justified, and most importantly every educational program must go through an annual review to see if it is still viable or to see if it has out lived it usefulness. By going through this exercise we can determine the best place to spend existing funds and where to spend new funds. If a program is no longer improving student achievement then we must discontinue that program and redirect those funds to a program that has proven to increase student performance.
If we are truly committed to increasing student achievement and in leaving no child behind then how we spend all available funds must reflect that priority.