Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Monday announced a $2 billion investment in public schools over the next 10 years, a large contribution aimed at shoring up dilapidated infrastructure at schools across the state.
Little said the investment, which he announced in his State of the State address, provides property tax relief that would also provide school districts with the ability to repair and replace their school buildings, citing reporting from the Idaho Statesman and ProPublica. Local school districts have long struggled to fix their dilapidated, aging school buildings, in part because of the high two-thirds voter approval threshold that school bonds require. Schools face leaking roofs, collapsing ceilings from water damage and failing plumbing, the investigation from the Statesman and ProPublica found.
“We’ve all seen the pictures and videos of some Idaho schools that are neglected — crumbling, leaking, falling apart,” Little said. “In one school I visited, raw sewage is seeping into a space under the cafeteria. Folks, we can do better.”
“As elected leaders, it is not just our constitutional obligation but our moral obligation as well to prioritize and strengthen public schools,” Little added.
Little’s proposed investment includes $75 million for a state education grants program that gives money to graduating high school students who enroll in in-demand job training programs.
Education has been a focus of Little’s since he became governor in 2019. The state increased school funding by 16.4% last year and added $410 million in tax revenue funding for schools in 2022.
Little’s budget director, Alex Adams, told reporters Monday that he hopes to raise a $1 billion bond, which would be distributed to school districts around the state by a to-be-determined formula. The money could be used for school expansions or major renovations, Adams said.
Adams said the governor’s office expects the specifics of the school funding plan to be sorted out during the Legislative session.
“We’re the first to acknowledge that we’re not coming in and saying this is the plan,” he said. “We’re coming to the Legislature, saying, ‘Let’s work together.’”
Still, Idaho consistently ranks among the bottom in per-student and school infrastructure funding.
Little’s proposals for the year also include money for university infrastructure, transportation and a mental health facility.