Coberly: Scholarship bill is ill-conceived and divisive

A controversial private school scholarship bill is unlikely to improve student performance, but it could fracture the coalition working for public schools, Boise superintendent Don Coberly says.

In a Monday blog post, Coberly joins the leaders of three education groups in opposition to the Guided Education Management Act.

Pushed by state Rep. John Vander Woude and lobbyist Blake Youde, House Bill 590 would create a scholarship program for poor and at-risk students, which could be used at private schools or non-public online schools. Proponents say the bill would provide school choice to students who most need it. Opponents — including leaders of the Idaho Association of School Administrators, the Idaho School Boards Association and the Idaho Education Association — have come out against this bill and any proposal that would create a voucher system.

Vander Woude and Youde have denied claims that HB 590 would create a voucher system.

Regardless, vouchers have proven unsuccessful in other states, Coberly says. They haven’t led to increased student performance, he says — and in Indiana and Louisiana, students who took part in a voucher program actually lost ground.

Coberly also cites recent Idaho history. After the bitter battle over Propositions 1, 2 and 3, a coalition came together to work on teacher pay, dual credit and career-technical education.

“Is there potential for that coalition to break apart over the voucher issue?” Coberly said. “We think there is, and quite frankly, we are worried that this issue will provide the spark for another fracture in Idaho’s education system. And we don’t want to see that happen.”

The House Education Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on HB 590.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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