Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Idaho cannot go on using the current method of funding our buildings

Raini Hayden

It is beyond disappointing as a parent and rural school trustee to see Senate Education hold Sen. Dave Lent’s bill on school facilities funding in committee. We are desperate for support for school facilities. For example, in the North Gem School District, our concerns run very deep. Our building is very old and has a failing plumbing system – including outdated cast iron pipes that are corroded and plug our lines. This year, these plumbing issues left us without bathrooms for our elementary school for several days. Our electrical system is also extremely antiquated, and our systems are often overloaded by our technology. Our plumbing and electrical issues are worsened by the fact that we must hire repairmen from outside of our community, making repairs that much more expensive. I won’t even begin to address our leaky roof, our defective windows in our classrooms, our non-existent HVAC system – or the fact that we had to install cables and supports to prevent the building from collapsing in the event of an earthquake.

Our small school district of 128 students in Bancroft, Idaho barely has enough market value to run a bond to build a school building. Even then, our tax base is largely agricultural, and our farmers would be facing a challenging tax burden – something we as a board are cautious of. Those farmers want to support the school district but are simply unable to do it through the traditional means of funding school buildings through property taxes. After the Office of Performance Evaluations report last year that showed that the state is nearing $1 billion behind in infrastructure updates for school facilities, we were ecstatic to see a working group was convened to discuss thoughtful options for school districts like ours. At the end, the Chair of the subcommittee drafted SB 1103 – which dedicated Endowment Land dollars to school facilities and used other revenue sources to backfill the $61 million hole it in the K-12 budget, so that we weren’t also strapped in our operating budgets. For the first time in a long while, we saw a light of hope that we would finally begin to address the needs that we have in North Gem.

But, that’s not what happened. Instead, five new members to the Senate Education committee derailed this plan and killed the bill. It, too, effectively killed any remaining hope we saw in a momentous attempt to help small, rural school districts like ours start to tackle the challenges we have for our school facilities. As a parent, and trustee, I know our communities all want our kids in safe, productive learning environments. SB1103 would have been a huge step in the right direction. I am disappointed that the committee tasked to address solutions for our public schools and our taxpayers would be met without any meaningful solution. We feel like we’re back at square one.

We urge the Idaho State Legislature – and Senate Education – to research the facility needs statewide and in their own legislative districts. We are not unique in our needs, and our policymakers and state leaders must do something. Idaho children, school districts, and taxpayers cannot go on using the current method of funding our buildings, and our students are relying on you.

Raini Hayden

Raini Hayden

Raini Hayden is the board chair for the North Gem School District.

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