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Report Examines School Funding Former Superintendents Not Surprised By Lawsuits

Poor funding for public education has occurred for years and set the stage for districts suing the state, say two former superintendents.

Jerry Evans, who became deputy superintendent of public instruction for Idaho in 1975 and then state superintendent, is coauthoring a report titled “Reactive School Finance Reform” with Nick Hallett, a University of Idaho education professor and former Meridian superintendent.

“It’s more or less a recent history of school finance in Idaho and kind of what’s left to be done,” said Evans, who chose not to run for re-election. Among other things, he is now an education professor at Idaho’s Boise Center.

Adequate school funding “is getting more and more difficult each year, because we are getting farther and farther behind,” Evans said. “In many cases we’re using spaces for classrooms that were never intended for classrooms.”Evans said these problems, as well as inadequate technology, will continue to plague public education.”There are some districts that have stepped forward and passed a bond election and made some headway … but it’s time to get help from the state.”

Evans switched from defendant to plaintiff in lawsuits filed against the state while he was chief.

“I did that based on the idea that for most all of my professional career I knew we needed to have more money for school support and for facilities,” he said.

He became a central figure in the development of a 1993 funding formula to establish funding equity.

One group of districts involved in the lawsuit was seeking equity, which Evans said was addressed by the formula. The other, Idaho Schools for Equal Educational Opportunity, was more concerned there was not enough money in the pot to begin with, to offer a thorough education.

“More money and facilities were supposed to get addressed later,” Evans said. “That didn’t happen.”

And now the Idaho Schools group is poised to sue the state again, this time over inadequate funding for facilities like buildings.

“It does not surprise me at all,” Evans said.

Hallett contends the 1993 assessment for school facilities was 700 million in arrears, was conservative at best and that property tax relief and requirements for disabled access to schools were not addressed. That pushed the delinquency much higher.

The facilities backlog is now $1 billion or more, he estimated.

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