Hanging over Idaho's 2010-11 public school year is a huge question mark.
Can the state's K-12 system still achieve improved learning standards for 275,000 students with a smaller budget and teachers paid less than last year?
Some education observers who've watched the steady erosion of political and financial support for schools believe that's equivalent to asking, "Can you get blood out of a turnip?"
In an occupation already cruelly underpaid, teachers once again find themselves bearing most of the burden of performing heroic deeds without full provisions. How many parents have heard stories of teachers spending handsomely out of their own pockets to pay for classroom supplies because schools lacked funds?
Consider some numbers that don't make sense.
New U.S. Census Bureau data shows that Idaho is 49th in the nation in spending per student, ahead of only Utah
The Idaho Department of Corrections spends about $57 per day on prison inmates ($20,805 per year).
If the new projected per-student state spending of $4,300 in the Meridian School District holds up as an average, then Idaho will spend about $24 per student each day during the 180-day school year. Actually, it's longer, because schools involve summer activities as well, including teachers' preparing curricula and programs for the coming year as well as taking advanced courses.
Is it possible that many of the 7,000-plus inmates in Idaho's eight correctional units landed there because schooling and classroom discipline fell short?
Proper spending on education today makes far more sense than spending $20,000 per year later to keep an inmate in a cell.