UPDATED: IEA-funded group targets Horman over school choice

(UPDATED, 1:19 p.m., with comment from Idaho Education Association.)

Backed largely by Idaho’s teachers’ union, a Republican-led group opposing school choice has poured nearly $100,000 into legislative primaries in the past week.

And Right 2 Learn is making no secret of its main target: Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls. The co-chair of the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, Horman supports providing state-supported tax credits for private schools.

Idaho Education News first reported last week on Right 2 Learn and its ties to the Idaho Education Association. Since then, Right 2 Learn’s spending has surged. Right 2 Learn has also received additional support from the IEA as the union doubles down against Horman, who has for years played a lead role in writing and sponsoring K-12 budget bills.

Here’s a rundown on the week’s activity:

  • Since Thursday, Right 2 Learn has spent a total of $99,159.
  • More than two-thirds of the money has gone into a single GOP legislative primary: a House race in Bonneville County’s legislative District 32. Right 2 Learn has spent $41,833 in support of Ammon Mayor Sean Coletti, a staunch opponent of state funding for private schools, mechanisms that fall under the heading of school choice. Right 2 Learn has spent an additional $26,488 in negative messaging against Horman, who sponsored a $50 million private school tax credit and grant bill that died in House committee in March. Horman, Coletti and GOP national committeeman Bryan Smith are squaring off in Tuesday’s primary.
  • Right 2 Learn has dabbled in a few other primaries where school choice is a prominent issue. In the spendy Senate race in North Idaho’s District 1, the group has spent $4,974 supporting former Sen. James Woodward and $6,381 in opposition to Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, a vocal supporter of spending plans that fall under the heading of school choice. The group has spent $3,933 in support of Rep. Melissa Durrant, R-Kuna, and $3,509 on behalf of Rep. Kenny Wroten, R-Nampa. Both cast crucial votes against Horman’s private school tax bill in House committee.
  • On Tuesday, the IEA’s Political Action Committee for Education contributed another $40,000 to Right 2 Learn, bringing its total contributions to $90,000.

In a statement Wednesday, IEA spokesman Mike Journee said union members “are enthusiastic about the dozens of conservative pro-public education candidates running this year, including Mayor Coletti.”

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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