Reclaim Idaho, the grass-roots organization responsible for putting Medicaid Expansion on the November 2018 ballot, is moving forward with a bold new citizen initiative targeted at fulfilling the state’s constitutional duty to provide a “uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”
It’s no secret our Legislature is failing its constitutional role in that respect. Lawmakers have for years. That’s why I encourage any resident to visit a district unable to pass a levy and engage in a conversation about the state’s failure to invest in our schools.
You will probably talk about a four-day school week. You will hear about higher juvenile crime rates due to kids not being in school during the week.
You will hear about families already struggling to find adequate child care in a five day week, now struggling to find care for an additional day.
You will hear heart-breaking narratives of families trying to find qualified support for special education students, only to find a lack of dollars for our state’s most vulnerable children.
The same goes for our English second language learners and migrant students who are managed by overwhelmed teachers who double as a case managers for no additional compensation.
While this may seem bleak, Idahoans have made it abundantly clear they value education and the role it plays in their kids’ future. We rejected the “Luna Laws” and, year-after-year, many communities pass supplemental levies to keep their local schools afloat. Their commitment to quality education for our youth is admirable, but it’s not sustainable. If Idaho’s leaders continue to ignore their constitutional duty to invest in our kids, our schools, and our future we will remain a state of “haves” and “have-nots” dictated by where one is born.
Our state Legislature has failed to carry out its mandate, but fortunately Idaho’s Constitution provides a remedy.
A citizen ballot initiative is precisely the tool to put our elected officials on notice that residents are furious with the status quo. It is the job of the state, not local property owners, to invest in our kids and our public schools.
Idaho’s property owners are being fleeced by a Legislature that claims fiscal responsibility, but seems oblivious to the clear benefits investing in education can bring to our state. We leave thousands of family-supporting jobs unfilled every year worth hundreds of millions of dollars in unclaimed wages that should be going into the pockets of Idahoans. Despite that big red flag, our elected leaders continue to fall down on the job. That’s why it’s time the citizens of Idaho took action.
I am encouraging educators and stakeholders to take a personal day on Tuesday, Nov. 5, to collect signatures for its “Invest in Idaho” ballot initiative. The initiative calls for investments of $170-200 million per year in our K-12 public schools. The goal is to pay teachers competitive salaries so they stop leaving the state, strengthen career-technical education, and set our kids on a path to success.
Idaho’s teachers obtain very few personal days (just two in my district) upon employment, and yes, I am asking you to use one of those to advocate for your students.
I hope citizens of all walks of life will join me on November 5th by hitting the pavement and giving our students the education they’ve earned. Visit ReclaimIdaho.org for more details.
Written by Levi B. Cavener, a teacher in Caldwell.