BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho ranks second-worst in the nation for the amount of money it spends per pupil, the U.S. Census Bureau said.
Information from the 2009-2010 school year shows the state ranked only ahead of Utah. It's the second consecutive year the state ranked second worst.
"Funding is a factor in education but it's not the most important factor," Idaho State Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath told The Spokesman-Review (http://bit.ly/KOLntS). "And it is not the factor that determines the quality of an education system."
The U.S. Department of Education's National Assessment of Educational Progress said Idaho eighth-graders scored above average in reading, math and science in 2011.
"In Idaho, our state spends less per student compared to most other states, but our students continually outperform students across the United States in reading, math and in science," McGrath said. "It's clear that Idaho is doing well spending its resources effectively and efficiently to benefit Idaho students."
States are also ranked for school spending per $1,000 in per-capita income for each state, with Idaho improving slightly from 41st to 38th by that measure. Idaho peaked in 2001 at 17th.
Mike Ferguson, Idaho's former chief state economist who served under five Idaho governors and now is the head of the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, said the numbers parallel a report he released in April that found the amount of Idaho's personal income that goes to schools dropped 23 percent between 2000 to 2013.
"The fact is that we've been essentially disinvesting in children," Ferguson said, noting Idaho has very low personal income compared to other states to begin with.
"We've always been on the low end of the scale" in per-pupil spending, he said. "It's just that we're basically, in these relative terms, getting even worse compared to what we have been able to muster previously."
The Census numbers also show that Idaho in 2009-2010 received 20.4 percent of its school funding from the federal government, the third highest of the states.
"That's the first year we did receive (federal) stimulus funding — that could definitely be the cause of it," McGrath said. "School districts this year are struggling because that one-time money is going away."
Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com