Reclaim Idaho files new K-12 funding initiative

The group behind the 2018 Medicaid expansion initiative is adopting a two-pronged political strategy.

Reclaim Idaho is planning to sue the state over a new state law that could make it much more difficult to get an initiative on a ballot. And if Reclaim prevails in court, the group will follow up with an initiative that would increase income taxes, generating more than $200 million per year for K-12 education.

Reclaim filed its ballot initiative language Wednesday.

“Idaho is dead last out of 50 states in education funding per student, but our legislators believe the big problem to be addressed is teachers ‘indoctrinating’ students,” Reclaim co-founder Luke Mayville said in a news release. “What a slap in the face to the teachers of our state. It’s time to stop attacking our educators and to start investing in them.”

The mechanics of the new proposal are virtually unchanged from July, when the U.S. Supreme Court halted a Reclaim online signature gathering effort.

Where the money would come from: The funding would come from increases in personal and corporate income taxes. Individuals would pay close to 11 percent on income above $250,000 (the 2020 initiative would have raised this tax rate to close to 10 percent). Corporations would pay 8 percent.

Currently, individual and corporate taxes max out at slightly less than 7 percent. House Bill 380, a tax relief bill pending in the Senate, would lower these rates to 6.5 percent.

Where the money would go: Proceeds from the new income taxes would go into a dedicated “quality education fund.” And that money, in turn, would go into a laundry list of K-12 items:

  • Reducing class sizes.
  • Teacher hiring and retention.
  • Hiring and retaining counselors and school psychologists.
  • Textbooks and classroom materials and supplies.
  • Full-day kindergarten.
  • Career-technical education.
  • Art, music and drama programs.
  • Supporting English language learners.
  • Civics, American history and government courses.
  • Special education services.

Several of these programs — support for school psychologists, support for English language learners and enhanced civics and American history courses — are new and did not appear in the original initiative.

The lawsuit: Reclaim says it will sue the state over Senate Bill 1110, a voter initiative law Gov. Brad Little signed on April 17. Under the new law, initiative organizers would need to gather signatures from 6 percent of registered voters in all 35 legislative districts. Previous state law required groups to hit the 6 percent threshold in 18 legislative districts.

Reclaim and other critics contend the new law will make it virtually impossible to get an initiative on the ballot.



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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