Recently nonprofit investigative journalism group ProPublica released an impressive set of searchable data that compares school districts across the country, looking at things like budget, ethnic makeup and the opportunities for students to take advanced classes.
Using that data, BW decided to show how the Treasure Valley's school districts compare not only on a national level but to each other. To break the comparison down further, we highlighted the traditional high schools in each district.
For further comparison, including a look at individual schools within some of the state's largest school districts, visit propublica.org and click on "Tools and Data."
Correction: The number of teachers in the state listed in the graph above is incorrect. There are 15,202 teachers in the state. We regret the error.
Clarification: The figure provided for money spent per student in the Nampa School District represents the amount from all funds. The amount spent per student from general funds is $5,226.
When the Boise School Board of Trustees meets on Monday, Sept. 12, it will be asked to approve a $14 million, five-year levy to put before voters on March 13, 2012. An extra burden to homeowners was not its first option. Before deciding to move forward with the levy, trustees asked district administration to cut as much as possible from the 2012-2013 budget. But Coby Dennis, secondary school director for the Timberline and Borah school areas, told trustees that any additional cuts could have a dire impact on "student programs, class size and the ability to manage the district."
"We have reached the critical point where we cannot continue to cut the district's budget and, at the same time, continue the same high level of quality educational programs expected by our students and our community," said Dennis.
The proposed $14 million levy could cost the average homeowner approximately $7 per month (based on an average home value of $165,000).
"We wouldn't be asking for this without a complete understanding of what's at stake," said district spokesman Dan Hollar. "These are not scare tactics. These are the realities in which we live."
Administrators, teachers and parents in the Meridian School District, Idaho's largest, know those realities all too well. On May 17, approximately 16,000 voters went to the polls in Meridian with more than 9,000 rejecting a two-year, $18.5 million levy. Less than a week later, Meridian administrators huddled and decided not to take the issue back to the polls this year.
"The taxpayers have spoken," Meridian Superintendent Linda Clark told BW. "They expect us to live within the means of state funds, and that's what we're going to do.
The Meridian School District will average $3,900* in spending per student for the upcoming school year.
"That would make Meridian the lowest-funded school district in the United States among districts with over 25,000 in enrollment," said Clark.
School levies have had mixed results across the Treasure Valley this year. Levies were also rejected in Fruitland, Mountain Home and Payette. Supplemental levies passed in Emmett, Melba, Parma and Wilder.
*The per-student expentiture listed in the graph accompanying this story cites the amount for the 2010-2011 school year.