Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Governor’s school proposal too little, too late

If we truly valued our children, we would ensure they spend their days in safe school buildings.
But decades of neglect have caused Idaho schools to slide into a shameful state of disrepair.
Raw sewage leaking under a cafeteria, collapsing roofs, and freezing classrooms illustrate the
dire condition of school facilities across the state. Most frighteningly, a fire destroyed much of a
Pocatello high school after faulty electrical wiring went unaddressed.

In his State of the State address, Governor Little touted a long-overdue investment in facilities
that made headlines. But when we read the fine print, we see he is largely continuing to kick the
can down the road. In the coming year, as schools face over $1.3 billion in facilities needs, they
would receive just $200 million. And that’s if this proposal can make its way through the
Republican supermajority, which has the same terrible track record in supporting school

In addition to increased state investment, there are two obvious policy solutions GOP
lawmakers have rejected that would put schools on firmer ground. First, we must allow school
districts to charge impact fees on new developments. Local governments regularly charge
developers for the new roads, sewer lines, and other infrastructure that new housing
developments necessitate. By making the same allowance for school infrastructure, growth can
pay for itself instead of asking existing taxpayers to foot the bill.

Second, we need to end the two-thirds majority requirement for passing school bonds. This has
tripped up desperate school districts like Boundary where recent bonds garnered a clear
majority of the vote, but fell short of the threshold. The state is letting a minority of voters deny
our students safe school buildings. Even a threshold of 55% or 60% of the vote would ensure
that more projects with strong public support can proceed.

How we got here is a lesson Idahoans cannot afford to forget. As our schools have gone long
underfunded, Little and his GOP colleagues have bragged about record budget surpluses,
manufactured by the neglect of our core duties. They repeatedly doled out enormous rebates
and permanent revenue cuts to the wealthiest while schools crumbled. His overdue
acknowledgment of the problem is a small step towards redemption, but it’s no cause for a
victory lap. For over twenty years, Little has held office in the Republican supermajority that
created this crisis.

Idaho Democrats have tirelessly fought for increased investments in Idaho schools while the
GOP underpaid our educators and let our schools fall into disrepair. Little is right when he says
we can do better. It is a shame that it took him more than two decades in public office to realize

Rep. Lauren Necochea

Rep. Lauren Necochea

Representative Lauren Necochea is the House Assistant Democratic Leader, representing District 19. She is also chair of the Idaho Democratic Party.

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