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How the state funds education salaries

The River Journal has discussed public school funding issues over the past few months so I thought it might be interesting to readers if I provided a brief overview of how Idaho funds our public schools. School funding is somewhat complex, so I enlisted the help of our Legislative Services Office in providing the following overview.

The centerpiece of the state funding system for K-12 public schools is the salary-based apportionment formula, which drives two-thirds of the state’s funding for public schools. The formula multiplies four different factors to compute a dollar figure that the state will provide for the salaries of teachers, administrators, and classified staff (secretaries, janitors, etc.). The formula works as follows:


Base Salary: Base salaries are set in Section 33-1004E, Idaho Code for instructional staff ($23,210), administrative staff ($33,760), and classified staff ($18,463). When you read that the Superintendent of Public Instruction has requested that the state raise salaries by 2%, these are the numbers she is referring to.

Support Units: Roughly equivalent to a classroom unit, this number is driven by Average Daily Attendance numbers (ADA) in each of the state’s 114 school districts. When the legislature sets the public school’s budget, it does so based on an estimate (supplied by the school’s Superintendent) of what support units will be for the coming school year.

Education/Experience Index: Each instructional and administrative employee of a school district is placed in their appropriate position on the index, which can be found in Section 33-1004A, Idaho Code (there is no index multiplier for classified staff). This index specifies a multiplier, based on educational attainment (bachelor’s, master’s, credit hours) and years of experience. When all the instructional staff are added together, you get an average index number for all instructional staff in the state. This is the number used in the formula. The same process is repeated for administrative staff.

Staff Allowance: This is the amount of staffing in each of the three categories (instructional, administrative, and classified) that the state deems adequate per support unit (or classroom). This staffing level is found in Section 33-1004 and has been set at 1.1 instructional staff, 0.375 classified staff, and 0.075 administrative staff per support unit. The reason for having more than one instructional staff per classroom is to cover other staff that is categorized as instructional, such as counselors, special education instructors and librarians.

The state also pays for the employer portion of social security and Medicare taxes and PERSI (retirement) contributions. We arrive at this amount by multiplying the total dollars funded through salary-based apportionment by .1742, and then adding $1million for unemployment insurance. The result of this calculation is the state-paid employee benefits. When combined, salary-based apportionment and state-paid employee benefits make up about 79% of the monies appropriated in the state’s public schools budget for FY2003. Other statutory and line item programs make up about 17% of the budget, while discretionary funds make up the final 4%.

The actual amount each individual district receives from the state is further influenced by equalization--a complicated process by which the state provides greater support to school districts with low property values, and less support to school districts with high property values.

There is also one more component in funding known as “Angel Money.” Angel money occurs as a result of building an appropriation for public schools around the salary-based apportionment formula. One piece of that formula (support units) is an estimate. We do not know when we set the budget for public schools what average daily attendance, and therefore support units, will be. For each of the first four years that we used support units, the state underestimated the actual number; for each of the last nine years, the state has overestimated the number.

Angel money is created when we overestimate support units. A theoretical example could be as follows:

Estimate Actual

(beg. of year) (end of year)

100 support units x 95 support units x

$1,000,000 $1,000,000

=equals= =equals=

$10,000 unit $10,526 per unit

Under this scenario, a district would set their budget based on an assumption that they would receive $10,000 per “classroom support unit” from the state. When actual numbers become available at the end of the school year, however, we find that we overestimated support units, which means that the actual funding available is $10,526 per “classroom.” This extra $526 per unit is sent out to districts as part of their final, year-end distribution, and is commonly referred to as “Angel Money.”.

Obviously the actual distribution of funding from the state to the school districts is more difficult then my explanation indicates, but hopefully this provides some insight as to how we actually allocate our school funding dollars.

As always, feel free to contact me anytime. My home phone is (208) 265-0123 and my mailing address is P.O. Box 112, Dover, 83825. You can also reach me on “E” mail at infocntr(at)lso.state.id.us.

Thanks for reading. George


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Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

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education, Politics, funding, salaries, Idaho

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