You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, had tutilege from a drug cartel’s money launderer while he was drafting the school voucher bill passed by Idaho’s house last week. A cursory read of the legislation makes it painfully obvious what the proposed law really is: a money laundering scheme.
The goal of money laundering, of course, is to conceal the origin of dollars. Except, in this case, the origin of the money is painfully obvious and the purpose of the legislation is also equally so. See, here’s the deal: Article Nine, Section Five of Idaho’s Constitution makes it abundantly clear that the state cannot distribute money to sectarian entities.
And instead of having a legitimate debate about amending Idaho’s Constitution, Rep. Vander Woude has instead come up with a convoluted plan in which money will be distributed by a quasi government scholarship fund entity to pay for students to attend private schools including religious institutions.
If it doesn’t make the dental fillings in your teeth hurt to see the contortions the bill goes through to avoid actually upholding both the wording and substance of Idaho’s Constitution — something, as it turns out, our legislators took an oath to protect — then you might need a trip to the dentist for a checkup.
But don’t let the law stop you. Idaho’s school voucher bill, known formally as the Guided Education Management Act, or HB 590, passed Idaho’s House last week with votes from Gem State representatives. It now heads to the Senate.
And let me be clear: If you are a supporter of the possibility of using state dollars for students to attend private institutions, then let’s have that debate on amending Idaho’s Constitution. It is a legitimate policy question that it appears the citizens of Idaho are interested in having.
But that’s not what this legislation is. It is a blatant workaround that avoids both the text and intent of Idaho’s governing document. If it doesn’t scare you that our elected representatives are actively seeking ways to avoid enforcing the foundation of Idaho’s law, then perhaps skip the dentist office in favor of a different type of hospital.
Because that’s exactly what this is. Vander Woude, at least, is honest enough to admit that this is the first step in a greater scheme to eventually have the state subsidize businesses or individuals who donate to the slush fund…err, scholarship account, to pay for kiddos to attend private schools by providing a tax credit.
See, the state can’t provide the money directly as it would be a clear violation of the law. So instead, in a series of mental gymnastics and suspension of disbelief, the state will instead operate a laundering racket where the money, per se, didn’t come from the state. And the fund, per se, is not necessarily operated under the management of the state. So therefore they aren’t breaking the rules. Get it?
Keep in mind that no group, others than those who stand to benefit, wants this legislation. The Idaho Education Association, the Idaho School Boards Association, the Idaho Association of School Administrators, and the State Board of Education all stand in opposition to the bill, which is the kindle for a larger voucher based system in Idaho.
We all want to do what’s best for kids. For some families, private schools provide an excellent option. But let’s not abandon both the text and intent of our state’s laws for the sake of expediency in providing that education option.
Written by Levi B Cavener, a teacher living in Caldwell. He blogs at IdahosPromise.Org