The 2014 Idaho Legislature will need to put ideologies aside when it comes to funding Idaho public schools. The numbers don't lie, and the number of Idaho school kids--particularly in the Treasure Valley--is going up.
"I've just completed our most recent enrollment summary," said Dr. Don Coberly, superintendent of the Boise Independent School District. "And we're looking at our largest kindergarten class since 1998."
Following a routine agenda that included honors for local educators and students, re-crafting language for district policies and an audit review, Boise school board trustees were just about to adjourn for the evening Oct. 14 when Coberly provided a brief, but eye-popping update.
"It's very interesting to look at what's happening in the district," he said.
Simply put, districtwide enrollment is up 514, compared to September 2012: 14,100 Boise elementary students and 11,979 Boise secondary students. In particular, kindergarten classes have jumped more than 5 percent.
Elementary schools that have seen the greatest growth include Hillcrest (28 percent increase), Lowell (17 percent), Morley Nelson (11 percent), Mountain View (9 percent) and Whitney (9 percent). Secondary schools experiencing the greatest growth include Frank Church High (22 percent) and Riverglen Junior High (7 percent).
"Across the Treasure Valley, enrollment is up in every district," said Coberly. "It looks like we're close to 3,000 [more students]."
And that's a familiar number, said Coberly.
"It's kind of interesting that [Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction] Tom Luna recently said that enrollment is up by about 3,000 statewide," said Coberly. "My guess is that most of that is here in the Treasure Valley."
Luna recently said he would seek a nearly 6 percent increase in funding for Idaho public schools for the 2014-2015 school year. Luna's proposed spending plan tops $1.37 billion, mirroring a similar recommendation from an independent task force. If approved, Luna's proposal--a 5.9 percent bump--would be the biggest spending increase for the State Department of Education since 2009.
"I think we're seeing real growth," Coberly told Boise school board trustees.