Why don’t Idaho teachers make $216,000 a year? Idaho spends about $7,500 a year per student, supplemental levies add about $1,500 per student and the average class size is 24 students. So, Idaho spends $216,000 per year on the average classroom. But the average teacher pay is $44,000, plus $16,000 in benefits — where is the other $156,000 going?

Brent Regan

Brent Regan

School district wages and benefits consume about 80 percent of the budget, leaving 20 percent for everything else (overhead). In our average Idaho classroom, that’s $43,000 leaving $113,000 per year per class that is not going to the teacher or the classroom. So where is the $113,000 going? Well, it must be going to salaries and benefits of people who are not the teacher.

For every teacher, there are two “not teachers” employed by the district. These include administrators, assistants, bus drivers, etc. For every $100 you spend on public education, only $20 goes to pay your child’s teacher. The rest is absorbed by the education bureaucracy. This also means that for every dollar increase in education spending, only .20 cents is available for teacher pay.

This explains why throwing money at the education “problem” never produces the desired results and why the claim that “we just haven’t spent enough” is blatantly false. What needs to happen is to reduce the bureaucracy, because if we can reduce overhead only 10 percent, we can increase teacher pay by 40 percent without growing the education budget by one dollar.

These facts are why a new initiative that is circulating which claims to “invest in Idaho” is so misguided. Invest in Idaho creates a new tax on employers and then creates a new government agency populated by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats who use a “secret formula” to distribute whatever tax funds they don’t consume. Schools lucky enough to get this trickle-down money will simply reduce their supplemental property tax levies by that amount because school boards set levies as the difference between the money they get from the state and the money they spend.

To review, the invest in Idaho initiative would put a new tax on employers, reducing the money available to hire Idaho citizens and motivating employers to locate in a tax-friendly state like Nevada. The tax money collected would be put in the hands of a new government agency where unaccountable bureaucrats would decide, according to a secret “formula,” the money that school districts receive to reduce property taxes. And who benefits most from lower property taxes? People with a lot of property to tax: rich people.

If a dollar actually goes to increase a school’s budget, the teachers will only see .20 cents, maybe. If this scam is really an investment, then it would have a rating south of “junk bond.”

Supplemental levies are failing all over the state. Bureaucrats are desperate for a new funding source and a tax on employers fits the bill. It’s only 3 percent, and once established, tax rates never increase, right?

Let’s hope we’re not that ignorant.

Brent Regan is the chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.