Basin revives plan to extend school levies

The Basin School District is gearing up for another run at extending school levies.

It’s one of several issues Idaho school trustees plan to consider at next month’s annual Idaho School Boards Association convention in Coeur d’Alene.

The conference features training and networking opportunities for school board members. It ends with an open caucus of trustees from across Idaho that will either accept or reject a series of resolutions aimed at shaping the ISBA’s top priorities ahead of the 2020 legislative session.

Here are the resolutions:

Extending school levies. Basin’s resolution calls for a change to Idaho code that would allow districts with a voter-approved supplemental levy on the books for at least seven consecutive years to consider extending the levy from three to 10 years, without requiring voters to return to the polls every year or two.

Supplemental levies allow districts to use local property taxes to help cover maintenance and operations expenses.

Basin officials pushed for the same change last legislative session, but a senate bill outlining the revision failed.

Like last session, Basin’s resolution includes provisions addressing current laws for continuous levies. For example, it would remove a requirement that districts hoping to extend their levies certify a levy that is at least 20 percent of the district’s maintenance and operations budget.

Basin’s supplemental levy is less than 20 percent of its maintenance and operations budget, so the district would not be eligible for a continuous levy unless it asked taxpayers for more money.

The Nampa School District joined Basin in submitting the resolution. Five districts with permanent levies — Boise, Blaine County, Moscow, Lewiston, and Mullan — would be grandfathered in, the resolution reads.

The ISBA’s executive board supports this resolution.

Amending academic framework for charter schools. Two virtual charter schools are calling on the Idaho Public Charter School Commission to replace its academic framework with an accountability system used in traditional schools.

The resolution also calls for possible disbandment of the commission altogether.

“In the event the (commission) does not revise its accountability measures, it would direct ISBA to call on the Legislature to disband the (commission),” reads the resolution submitted by both Idaho Virtual Academy and iSucceed Virtual High School.

The ISBA’s executive board does not support this proposal and will provide details for why at the conference.

The seven-member commission uses standardized test scores and other measures to grant five-year renewals to its 56 charter schools, including iSucceed and IVA. The commission can close schools it deems low-performing.

IVA and iSucceed trustees say the framework jeopardizes school choice in Idaho.

The resolution follows a months-long battle between the commission and some of its schools, after the commission discussed financial “malpractice, low performance and possibly closing some of its schools in a leaked audio.

The commission later admitted to breaking Idaho’s open meeting law and spent much of the summer weathering blowback from the controversy.

IVA Head of School Kelly Edington has decried the commission’s oversight of her school.

“I believe members of the commission and their staff do not understand our school,” she wrote in August. “I don’t believe all of the commissioners want to close our school, but I do believe commission staff do want to close our school.”

Task force on property tax reform. The Nampa School District wants a task force to study ways to reform the way property taxes help fund schools.

“Changes to Idaho’s property tax system in 2006 has put schools and districts in a tough position of asking their taxpayers for levies in order to provide the programs and educational services their communities expect,” the resolution reads.

The resolution calls for a task force of legislature, taxpayers and stakeholders to discuss solutions “to ensure Idaho’s constitutional obligation to provide a uniform and thorough system of education is being met.”

The ISBA’s executive board supports this resolution.

Read more: A 2006 tax overhaul changed the way Idaho pays for schools. Since then, more districts rely on supplemental levies. Here’s a detailed EdNews series on the tax shift.  

Other resolutions for this year’s conference:  

  • Establishing limits on non-elected charter school authorizers.
  • Promoting local control of school security decisions.
  • Allocating salaries for instructional and student-service staff.
  • Allowing closed-door discussions of sale of property.
  • Providing school construction property tax relief.
  • Implementing more flexibility for teachers to fill assignments outside their endorsed areas.
  • Changing the required school age from 16 years old to 18 years old.
  • Providing more support for Idaho science standards.
  • Establishing principles to guide a new K-12 funding formula.
  • Increasing reimbursements for drivers education programs.
  • Establishing public schools as “public facilities.”
  • Revising Idaho law on excision.

Click here for a detailed rundown of the resolutions.

The three-day convention runs from Nov. 6-8 at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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