Two top policy priorities for Idaho Education Association members — securing funding for school facilities and defeating vouchers in any form — are all but certain to come forward during the 2024 legislative session as it begins to move into high gear.
While no formal legislation has been introduced by lawmakers on either topic, lawmakers are deep in discussions or have drafted legislation on both proposals.
School Facilities Proposal from Gov. Little
Idaho Gov. Brad Little brought the long overdue discussion about Idaho’s gigantic backlog of needed school facility repairs and upgrades to the forefront by making it the centerpiece of his legislative agenda for the year and his annual State of the State address. It’s a discussion IEA members are eager for.
“For far too long, Idaho policymakers have ignored the daunting backlog of facilities needs leaving too many of Idaho’s students literally out in the cold,” said IEA President Layne McInelly, in reaction to Gov. Little’s speech on Jan. 8.
Little’s $2 billion proposal comes on the heels of groundbreaking reports from the Idaho Statesman and ProPublica chronicling the dilapidated state of school buildings in some Idaho communities.
According to polling commissioned by IEA members, Idaho voters also support the need for the facilities discussion to begin. In a Sept. 30-Oct. 5 online poll of 2,313 voters, 80% said the state should fund facilities needs if local voters refuse to do so. Similarly, 94% agreed that “Idaho students have a right to safe, secure, and modern school facilities.”
Vouchers to Return as Tax Credit
Also, a year after IEA member influence helped defeat no less than seven voucher bills during the 2023 legislative session, voucher proponents have draft legislation for a tax credit voucher that is expected to be introduced in coming days or weeks.
IEA members have long opposed vouchers — or syphoning public tax dollars away from public schools to pay for private or parochial school tuition — in any form.
Draft legislation to create vouchers via a tax credit to help pay for private school tuition is expected to be introduced soon. The legislation was drafted and is expected to be co-sponsored by Rep. Wendy Horman (R-Idaho Falls), Sen. Lori Den Hartog (R-Meridian) and Sen. C. Scott Grow (R-Eagle)
“Voucher proponents are tireless in their effort to bring these schemes to Idaho and to label them anything but what they are,” said Chris Parri, IEA political director. “No matter what their nature or how you label them — school choice, education savings accounts, or tax credits — spending public tax dollars on private school tuition, especially without fully funding public schools first, is a voucher.”
And, according to IEA’s October voter poll, a majority of likely Idaho voters oppose directing public tax dollars to private K-12 schools, while 80% believe schools benefiting from vouchers, taxpayer-funded education savings account vouchers or tuition tax credit vouchers, if ever enacted in Idaho, should meet the same accountability and transparency standards as public schools.