I applaud those legislators who voted against HB669

We are at a historical crossroads with public schools in Idaho. In one direction are those who believe in our state’s constitutional promise of a uniform, thorough, and free system of common public schools for every child; in the other direction are those who believe that the time has come to dismantle that system in favor of privatized educational choices for families.

The struggle to find the right balance between the ideals of government for the common good and individual choice is as old as democracy itself. That tension was evident in the arguments of the House Education Committee on Tuesday who, by the slimmest of margins, voted down the latest legislative attempt to send millions of public tax dollars to private schools.

While committee members vigorously debated the outcomes of this proposed bill, the most important arguments were voiced by Julie Yamamoto and Gary Marshall who courageously stood for their belief that voucher bills, including H669, violate their constitutional duty as legislators to establish and maintain a uniform and thorough system of free, common public schools.

I applaud these legislators, and those who joined with them in voting against HB669, for upholding the oaths of their office. Voting to send public tax dollars to private schools or educational service providers clearly violates that duty unless those private entities are held accountable for following every state law and rule that establish uniformity and thoroughness in public schools across our state.

In holding this position, I will undoubtedly be characterized as one who is only interested in protecting our system because I have chosen to serve our community, our state, and our country as a public educator. I take justifiable pride in the service that dedicated public school employees provide every day to our students and families. But for those who argue that our public schools have somehow failed and that privatization is somehow the answer, I challenge you to have the integrity and transparency to propose a constitutional amendment that will free our legislators from their duty to establish a uniform and thorough system of education in Idaho. Anything less will only pick at the seams of the system that you wish to tear apart. Proposing such an amendment will finally give our Legislature and our citizens the opportunity to decide what is truly best for all of Idaho’s students. In the meantime, each of our elected legislators should hold their solemn oaths to protect and defend the constitutions of both our country and our state as their highest duty and not surrender that duty to serve personal and political agendas.

 

Scott Woolstenhulme

About Scott Woolstenhulme

Scott Woolstenhulme has served as the Bonneville School District superintendent since 2019.

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