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Idaho schools to get $10 million boost from endowment

BOISE – Idaho’s public schools will get a $10 million boost in funding next year from the state endowment because of strong earnings in 2014 and 2015.

The state Land Board unanimously approved the 28.1 percent increase in the distribution to public schools at its meeting Tuesday; it means the payout to schools next year will be $47.1 million, up $10.3 million from this year’s $36.7 million distribution.

Also, the board voted to transfer $47.4 million to the permanent fund for the school endowment. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden called that “a gift that keeps on giving,” because it will boost payouts to Idaho schools in all future years.

Idaho’s state endowment is a permanent fund, plus land holdings, that generates annual payouts for specific state beneficiaries, the largest of which is the state’s public school system. The other beneficiaries include higher education, state hospitals for the mentally ill, state veterans homes, the Capitol building, the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind, the state’s juvenile corrections system and its prison system. Payouts to those beneficiaries next year won’t rise, instead staying at this year’s level.

“It’s exciting, exciting,” state schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra said after the vote. “Pinch me, is it real?”

She said she had no problem with the transfer to the permanent fund. “I think it embodies sound investment practices on behalf of the investment board,” Ybarra said. “I think all of it is very positive for public schools – it’s been a long time coming.”

The overall endowment fund lost money during the past year. However, earnings have since rebounded.

Though the state has made tens of millions of dollars for the school endowment selling off state-owned lake cabin sites in the past two years, that didn’t affect the calculation of next year’s payout. Proceeds from cabin site sales are largely slated to be reinvested into higher-earning land investments.


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