Idaho Senators: Don’t drain the public school funding bucket that your constituents are trying to fill.
This Tuesday, Idaho taxpayers will go to the polls to vote on levies and bonds for their local public schools.
Over the course of the last year, Idaho school districts have run bonds and levies asking for over $1.34 billion dollars. And on Tuesday alone, 38 percent of Idaho districts are asking their taxpayers for $410 million dollars to meet the needs of Idaho students.
This money isn’t being requested for frivolous reasons, but rather for critical needs to ensure that every Idaho student receives a high-quality educational experience.
It’s being requested to make repairs to rundown facilities, to ensure our children are safe at all times, and to expand for our growing student population. It’s being requested to continue STEM and AVID programs that offer opportunities and resources to underserved populations and prepares them to be successful in their careers. These bonds and levies are being requested to hire educators and support staff so that our special needs students, those who need it most, receive the support and personalized instruction that they deserve.
Ironically, the day after Election Day the Senate Education Committee will be taking up HB 590, The Guided Education Management Act. HB 590 requires the state to set up a “scholarship fund” for private citizens and corporations to donate money for a student to use for tuition at a private school.
There are already dozens of non-profit organizations that provide this service throughout the state. So why the legislation?
In 2015, Idaho Code 63-3029A was amended to allow a tax credit for individuals who donate to a non-profit that exists for “the express purpose of… supplementing and enhancing the private school which is the beneficiary…”. Did you catch that? The tax credit, aka voucher, is already there.
And so the day after Idahoans show up to supplement our already underfunded public schools, the Senate Education Committee will be hearing HB 590. Effectively, this legislation will crack open the floodgates for public dollars to drain out of the state’s general fund, our public school’s primary funding source, and into private schools that do not hold the same transparency or accountability to Idaho taxpayers.
So, taxpayers, go support your public schools this Tuesday. And Senator Education Committee members, I ask that on Wednesday you take these points into careful consideration, vote “no” on HB 590, and keep the money in the public schools that our taxpayers support and of which 97 percent of Idaho students attend.
Written by Erin Paradis, an elementary music teacher at Desert Springs Elementary in the Vallivue School District.