Education is the single largest piece of Idaho’s state budget, and the Idaho Constitution makes it a top priority for the state. Yet Idaho ranks near the bottom of states in per-pupil expenditures for schools, and last winter, the state’s Supreme Court declared the system for funding school construction unconstitutional and inadequate. Most of Idaho’s high school graduates don’t go on to any higher education.
The four candidates running for governor of Idaho have different visions of how to improve Idaho’s educational system – one doesn’t even want to try. Marvin “Pro-Life” Richardson, the Constitution Party candidate, said: “I’d ask the state Legislature to start the process of changing our constitution so that there’s not a mandate for public education in the constitution. … Public school is a communist doctrine. It breaks down the religious faith of people.” That’s not the tack the other three candidates take, but they differ on whether Idaho should even attempt to spend what other states do on schools. You can read the full story in today’s Spokesman-Review; it’s the second part of my three-part series on key issues in the governor’s race (growth, education and taxes). The article includes this observation from former longtime state Superintendent of Schools Jerry Evans: “It’s a very complex issue, but as long as Idaho spends less money per child than most states, then it’s difficult to expect that we’re going to get better results than other states. … We have to be aware that it doesn’t cost any less to buy a textbook in Idaho than it does in Ohio or Maine or Iowa or anyplace else.”