Idaho’s schools were already in an “extremely precarious” position before the coronavirus pandemic, Democratic legislative leaders said Thursday, and budget cuts will only make matters worse.
In a joint statement Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett and House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel urged Gov. Brad Little to rethink his proposal to cut $99 million from next year’s K-12 budget.
“Idaho’s children have already experienced a serious disruption to their education over the past two months, but those learning setbacks will be worsened dramatically, with long-term consequences, if the proposed education cuts become a reality,” Stennett, of Ketchum, and Rubel, of Boise, said in a news release.
They urged Little to consider several options: using the state’s budget reserves to spare education from cuts; using tax proceeds from Internet sales, now siphoned into a separate fund to bankroll future tax cuts; and reexamining the state’s $2 billion of sales tax exemptions.
Little last week outlined his plans to cut K-12 spending. He has ordered all state agencies to plan for possible budget cuts of 5 percent next year, as tax collections wither in the wake of the pandemic.
Earlier this week, state Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, urged Little to reverse the K-12 cuts, also citing Internet taxes and the rainy-day accounts as an alternative to spending reductions. “It certainly is a rainy day and this turmoil should not be used as an excuse once again hurt public education.”
The Idaho Education Association and local teachers’ union representatives have also criticized the proposed cuts.