Idaho Bill Would Reject Federal Education Funding, Nullify Mandates in Practice

BOISE, Idaho (Jan. 31, 2018) – A bill introduced in the Idaho House would gradually eliminate all federal education funding for grades K-12. Passage of the bill would set the stage to nullify many federal education mandates.Rep. Ronald Nate (R-Rexburg) introduced House Bill 413 (H413) on Jan. 25. The legislation would limit the amount of federal funding taken by the state for K-12 education, gradually eliminating it altogether. Under the proposed law, the state would limit the amount of federal education funding to $300 million in 2019. Each subsequent year, the amount would be reduced by another $40 million. By 2027, Idaho would no longer rely on federal funding for any of its K-12 education appropriations.

“Once attained, Idaho will retain its education freedom by not allowing federal funding for any of its future grades K-12 education appropriations.”

By rejecting all federal funding, Idaho would free itself from many federal mandates. As a 2005 U.S. Department of Education website put it, “There are no unfunded federal education ‘mandates.’ Every federal education law is conditioned on a state or other grantee’s decision to accept federal program funds.”

Simply put, rejecting the funds empowers the state to reject the mandates.

The vast majority of federal education money flows through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. To receive this funding, states must meet a wide range of requirements. Title I is the best know federal program. Federal requirement tied to Title I funding include set academic standards for core subjects,  annual assessments of student proficiency based on federal standards, state reporting requirements, and specific mandates to improve low-performing schools.

If Idaho rejects federal funding, it will be able to ignore these federal mandates and requirements, and set its own state standards without interference. Some federal mandates would remain in place, primarily relating to equality and access through the Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act Passage. There are also various privacy and health-related regulations not tied to funding. Even with these regulations still in place, HB413 would take a huge step toward reasserting state and local control over education in Idaho.


Even with the passage of H413, some federal strings could potentially remain in place due to Idaho’s participation in Common Core.

Common Core was intended to create nationwide education standards. While touted as a state initiative through the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the U.S. Department of Education was heavily involved behind the scenes. Up until recently, the DoE tied the grant of waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act to the adoption of Common Core, using the standards as powerful strings to influence state educational policy. The Every Student Succeeds Act passed by Congress in 2015 now prohibits the DoE from attempting to “influence, incentivize, or coerce State adoption of the Common Core State Standards … or any other academic standards common to a significant number of States.”

Eliminating federal funding would likely minimize any federal leverage relating to Common Core. Nevertheless, it is still imperative for each state to adopt its own standards. With a “national system” in place, the feds could once again use these standards to meddle in state education at any time. Just as importantly, one-size-fits-all standards simply don’t benefit children. State and local governments should remain in full control of their own educational systems.


H413 was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.

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