Legislative update highlights Medicaid, education funding

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, and Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle, held a town hall gathering Saturday to update locals on the current legislative session, including the status of Medicaid expansion and possible changes in how Idaho schools are funded.

Rep. Sage Dixon addresses attendees at the Feb. 2 Town Hall legislative update. Photo by Lyndsie Kiebert.

Woodward said the House and Senate are about to start what is sure to be a complex debate on a draft bill to restructure the state’s education funding system.

The proposed formula, which has been in the works for over three years, shifts funding from average daily attendance-based to an enrollment-based structure. 

“Right now, we’re motivated in our school systems to make sure that the kids are in school because the funding is based on that head count, and that’s a true motivator,” Woodward said. “We don’t want to lose that by shifting to something else.”

The new formula applies a base amount of money to each child, and then other factors — or “weights” — are brought in to determine if that child’s education will require more money.

“Does that child live in a rural area? Is that child in an economically-disadvantaged area? There are a number of weights that apply so that a certain amount of money is sent out toward that student,” Woodward said. “That’s the gist of it. Crafting that into a piece of legislation is the challenge.”

Attendees Saturday questioned how the legislature will go about funding Medicaid expansion, a citizens’ initiative that garnered more than 60 percent approval from Idaho voters in November. Dixon said the plan right now is to “derive from existing funding so it’s not a big burden to the state,” which is also the course of action outlined in Gov. Brad Little’s recommended budget.

“We have, in the House, just been biting around the edges of what this is going to look like,” Dixon said. “There’s not a whole lot of news as far as (Medicaid expansion) goes right now, but when we come back in the end of February or March, I’m sure we’ll have more we can convey on that.”

Contact Dixon at [email protected] to be added to his email list and be informed of upcoming town halls, or follow his Facebook page. The next town hall meeting is not yet scheduled.

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