Idaho Schools Stand To Lose Millions If Federal Budget Cuts Happen

Feb 25, 2013

Credit Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

The White House says Idaho schools will lose about $6.6 million this school year if the sequester happens. These automatic spending cuts are set to take  effect this Friday unless Congress reaches an agreement.  

The cuts to Idaho schools would put about 70 teachers and aids out of work. The National Education Association factors in things like Head Start for poor and disabled preschoolers and comes up with a $10.9 million hit to Idaho education with more than 200 hundred jobs lost.  Whatever the impact, it won’t be spread evenly around the state.

Idaho school districts rely to varying degrees on federal money. It’s a tiny fraction for some. It's significant for others. For example, federal money is important in counties that have lost thriving timber industries. Those federal education dollars offset the economic loss. Then there are districts like north Idaho’s Plummer-Worley.  

“We estimate a $53,000 cut in our small district of 409 students,” says superintendent Judi Sharrett.  

Her district gets more than 35 percent of its budget from the federal government, one of the highest rates in the state. That’s because it’s on the Coeur d’Alene Indian reservation. A 1950 law gives money to school districts that can’t raise it on their own because their land is un-taxable. That includes reservations and military bases. Sharrett says her district tried to plan for the sequester. But it could still mean difficult cuts.

“We’ve had to tighten our belts over a number of years,” she says. “And right now we’re not providing a complete basic education. We don’t have music, we don’t have art. We don’t have some of the things that you would typically have in order to provide a well-rounded education. So it’s very painful to think about any more cuts here.”

Sharrett says she hopes Congress is working on an agreement behind closed doors.

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