Historically, Idaho school funding has been ranked among the lowest in the nation. Currently, Idaho is the second-lowest in total per-pupil spending.1 Additionally, Idaho is one of only four states that do not fund pre-K opportunities, nor is Kindergarten of any kind required. Considering the links between early learning, poverty, and health, there is reason to be concerned about the educational foundation children have in Idaho.
This is the basis for UWSEI serving as the backbone organization for local Cradle to Career efforts, known as imPACT East Idaho. Success during the early portion of a person’s lifespan is linked to increased quality of life that make lasting impacts for individuals as well as generations of families. Increased life-long earning potential, better health (due to increased access to quality healthcare), more money going back into communities through taxes, and decreased involvement with the criminal justice system are all correlated with a child’s early success. Across the board, kids from lower-income households are struggling to keep up with their higher-income peers.2
Girl Scouts has helped me to recognize that I am limited only by myself. It has taught me to set goals and work toward them. Being able to earn badges has taught me that rewards will come if I work hard and do my best in every situation.
–Participant, age 16
Preschool and Early Learning
Early education greatly benefits children and can also decrease education costs by keeping students in classes with their peers instead of in special programs.3 Idaho has about 15% fewer children enrolled in preschool than the U.S. average. This is due in large part to the cost barrier which many families cannot overcome. Between 2011 and 2016, enrollment has been decreasing in the U.S. (from 48.1% to 47.5%) and in Idaho (34.8% to 32.3%).4 Research suggests the early development of perception, memory, judgment, reasoning, language, and vocabulary have strong ties to success in education and the workforce. By the time children reach third grade, it is extremely important that they are reading to learn, not learning to read. When children cannot read on grade level by third grade, they only have a one in four chance of catching up to their peers.5
Middle and High School Learning
Middle-grade math (often measured during the eighth grade) is an important indicator for graduating from high school on time as well as for predicting success in post-secondary settings. Over one-third SEI students fall below the benchmark for eighth-grade math, making this an area of ripe opportunity for creating change with a long-lasting impact.6 Graduation rates are a great education indicator since it is one of the few metrics that are fairly consistent when comparing statistics from state to state. All-Southeastern Idaho counties have graduation rates above the statewide average, which is a positive sign of K-12 efforts in the community.
While they are more likely to graduate from high school, students in SEI are less likely than Idahoans, in general, to go on to college. However, they make up some ground on the statewide average over time, particularly between 25-28 months after graduation.7 Overall, this trend is concerning when considering the education and skills needed to fill available positions in the SEI workforce. As the region continues to attract additional employers, it will be important that local leaders work in tandem with K-12 and post-secondary learning institutions to ensure that the candidate pool is qualified for the work employers need to be done. A comprehensive evaluation of post-secondary offerings will help this work and should include badging, certifications, and apprenticeships in addition to two year and four-year degrees.
- Support and fund imPACT East Idaho Cradle to Career efforts currently focusing on Kindergarten Readiness and Post-Secondary Credentialing.
- Encourage legislative action leading to state funding for high-quality preschool programming.
- Urge child care facilities to utilize resources through IdahoSTARS to increase the quality and reach of programs for young children prior to kindergarten.
- Promote expanding the number of local full-day preschool and kindergarten programs.
- Encourage increasing the amount of state funding per pupil.
- Examine requiring kindergarten as part of the K-12 public education system.
- Encourage investment in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in high schools.
- Expand Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) learning opportunities for children of all ages.
- Encourage continued funding and expansion of the Fast Forward program.
- National Center for Educational Statistics. Revenues and Expenses for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2013-2014.
- Jensen, E. Teaching with Poverty in Mind. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Chapter 2.
- Dubno, Janice. The Impact of High Quality Early Childhood Programs on Improving the Educational Achievement of At-Risk Children. Voices for Utah Children. April 30, 2010.
- National Institute for Early Education Research. State of Preschool Yearbook 2016.
- Lesnick, J., George R.M., Smithgall, C. Reading on Grade Level in Third Grade: How is it Related to High School Performance and College Enrollment? 2010.
- Idaho State Department of Education. Report Card.
- United States Department of Education. U.S. High School Graduation Rates Hits New Record High. February 12, 2015.