Idaho’s Secretary of State made it official last Friday. The “Invest in Idaho” citizen’s initiative is certified and ready for signatures. The people of Idaho now have the power to start investing in education again.
Tragically, our state has endured 20 years of cuts to education funding. Despite modest investments during the past few years, Idaho legislators have failed to restore funding to where it was in the year 2000.
The people of Idaho have seen the results: Idaho’s best qualified and most talented teachers are fleeing across state borders because we’re failing to offer them competitive salaries.
Idaho’s Career-Technical programs — programs that can lead to thousands of family-supporting jobs for our kids — are being cut back and even eliminated in rural school districts.
Fortunately, we the people of Idaho now have a chance to do what our politicians have refused to do: Invest in education and make a generational difference in the lives of our kids.
The Invest in Idaho ballot initiative is simple to understand. It’s designed to invest up to $200 million per year in Idaho’s K-12 public schools, paid for with zero new taxes on those earning less than a quarter-million dollars per year. The initiative adds slightly more than one penny to the corporate tax rate, and the richest Idahoans will see new taxes only on the money they make after their first quarter-million dollars of annual income. Married couples will pay zero new taxes on income below a half-million per year.
Every committee, task force and working group for the last decade has concluded that Idaho needs a skilled work force in order for businesses to thrive in this state. The Invest in Idaho initiative aims to provide the very thing every business has been asking for.
That starts with our teachers. Without talented educators, our students are at a disadvantage. One of the goals of the initiative is to pay our teachers competitive salaries so they stop leaving our state for places like Washington, Oregon or Wyoming.
The initiative also aims to invest in Idaho’s Career-Technical education (“CTE”) courses. A rural Idaho teacher recently described those courses as “gold mines” for Idaho students. During a recent meeting of the governor’s K-12 Task Force, a member equated Career-Technical graduates to “NBA draft picks.” It’s clear these officials are thinking about public education the same way families all across this state do: they want their kids to earn one of the thousands of family-supporting jobs that go unfilled every year in Idaho. Idaho is in dire need of skilled workers who can fill those jobs with a high school diploma, certificate or just a two-year degree.
Idaho’s working families are also concerned about the bloated property tax bills they have to pay every year. Thanks to many of Idaho’s politicians, working Idahoans have been shouldering a tax increase since 2006, as the combined property tax levies for schools now exceeds $200 million. It’s not fair for Idaho’s middle class to bear the burden of keeping schools afloat while our politicians give away our tax dollars to out-of-state corporations and Idaho’s richest households. The Invest in Idaho citizen ballot initiative aims to level the playing field for all Idahoans no matter where they live.
Every Idaho student deserves a fair shot at success regardless of their zip code. We’ve traveled the state talking with parents, teachers and students and they all agree. This is a consensus issue because it strikes at the heart of what every Idahoan values: fairness, prosperity, and opportunity for our children.
Idahoans from all walks of life came together to pass Medicaid Expansion in this state with an overwhelming majority – 61-percent. It was Idaho’s greatest legislative achievement in a generation. The people of Idaho recognized our state was weathering a healthcare crisis our politicians refused to address. We now have an opportunity to address a crisis that is every bit as urgent. Our state’s failure to invest in public education is squandering the talent of an entire generation of Idaho kids. Let’s make sure the next generation—no matter their zip code or family income — get the education they deserve.
Visit reclaimidaho.org to learn more about the Invest in Idaho initiative and how you can get involved.
Written by Rebecca Schroeder of Reclaim Idaho.