Idaho State Board of Education approved temporary enrollment rule ahead of Legislative session

Posted at 3:28 PM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 19:12:18-05

BOISE — With quarantine, infection rates, and lots of other unknowns, the Idaho State Board of Education is figuring out how to most accurately report enrollment and attendance to the state for funding calculations.

On Monday, the board approved a temporary reporting rule that could expire at the end of the session.

"We have heard from school districts since the summer, and they were nervous how many students would be returning, and a lot of those forecasts have come true," said the president of the board, Debbie Critchfield.

The board's temporary rule puts overall enrollment numbers as the main piece of the funding puzzle for schools.

"Funding schools based on the daily attendance, which is where we had been historically, didn't make sense this year, and it may not make sense another year, but particularly this year," said Critchfield.

Even if daily attendance is lower, Critchfield says districts' needs have not decreased.

"I would argue that more funding may be needed this year than previous years because of the fact that fewer students may be in person," said Critchfield,

"There are technology needs, and upgrades students didn't have to deal with previously."

Enrollment numbers have already taken a hit this year, with nearly 11,000 students in Idaho that didn't come back to traditional schools. The next school year could see similar trends, with parents deciding if a private school or wholly online school works better for their families.

"Every year, we see a certain percentage of students that want to look and see well, what matches up and lines up, this year it's times a hundred," said Critchfield.

The rule will be evaluated by the Legislature and is in effect until the end of the legislative session.

"This was our way of providing that certainty to school districts, letting them know we heard their concerns about operational budgets, and we can get them through the school year," said Critchfield.

Other things to listen for during the Legislature will be teacher pay, the achievement gap, and closing the digital divide.