A proposal introduced by Rep. Ronald Nate (R-Rexburg) in the House Education Committee calls for an amendment to the Idaho Constitution that would allow for tax dollars to be expended on private and religious schools. Idaho’s “Blaine Amendment” currently prohibits the use of public funding for institutions controlled by religious entities.
The IEA is adamantly opposed to this proposal and we’ll be sharing the details outlined in the bill as soon as it has been assigned an official number by legislative services. Our primary concern is that an amendment such as this would further siphon away funds from public schools, directing them to private and religious schools, and further eroding support for public schools which have already been impacted by underfunding.
A large number of representatives and senators have already signed on as co-sponsors to this legislation. A constitutional amendment must pass both houses of congress by a two thirds majority and then be approved by a majority of voters.
Idaho Ed News provided a bit more detail regarding today’s House Education Committee meeting and the troublesome proposal, including concern from Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) that this would open the door for a full-fledged voucher system in Idaho.
A more beneficial proposal, sponsored by Rep. Reed DeMordaunt (R-Eagle), would provide funding to Idaho’s new STEM Action Center to hire an additional staff person. Under his proposal, industry leaders, the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education would collaborate to create K-12 computer science standards for students and help teachers learn how to incorporate computer science into their classrooms.
This is education week at the Capitol, and the House and Senate Education Committees have spent their meetings reviewing the successes and challenges of Idaho universities and community colleges. That process will be ongoing throughout the week.